Governance by Disclosure: Transnational Convergence in the Field of Nanotechnology
2(1) Transnational Environmental Law (2013)
37 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2013
Date Written: January 29, 2013
“Nanotechnology,” the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, is projected to profoundly alter manufacturing systems globally. However, along with the promise that these new technologies hold, there are concerns about the possibility of unknown latent risks to human health or the environment. Under current scientific uncertainties, regulators explore new strategies for overseeing development and safe use of nanotechnologies. Information disclosure plays a prominent role among these strategies. Thus far, however, the informational strategies actually employed by governments have focused on means by which to collect information from industry, and the types of information requested do not allow for an adequate health risk assessment. Moreover, little effort has been made to make the information collected publicly available. The article address the question of what information is disclosed (or not disclosed) and why, highlighting the social-political context within which these decisions are made, and their democratic implications. It argues that the current ‘light-touch’ disclosure-based approach may lies in technical, evidence-based, ‘risk’ conception, which is common to both the US and the EU. It further argues for a more democratic ‘governance-by-disclosure’ approach, which allows society to prioritize risks that it is willing to take to enjoy the benefit of technological progress.
Keywords: nanotechnology regulation, scientific uncertainty, risk management approach, information disclosure, risk conception, technological innovation
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