International Regulatory Regimes for Nanotechnology
33 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2006 Last revised: 11 Oct 2015
Date Written: June 8, 2006
This paper represents a very early stage of a collaborative research project on transnational NT regulation. In this project, we seek to apply a multidisciplinary perspective to the question of regulation of nanotechnology (NT).
We begin in Section I by considering the nature of NT and some risks it may pose as it is more fully developed and utilized over time. We next consider the nature of transnational "regulation," suggesting the range of legal, institutional and substantive forms this term can encompass. Because NT and its regulation are (like our project) at such early stages of development, we emphasize the importance of regulatory flexibility.
In Section II, we consider a series of strategic choices that must be faced in designing transnational regulation in any issue area, including NT; these include the level and scope of regulation, the actors authorized to promulgate regulatory norms, the legal and institutional form of regulation, and finally its substantive content.
In Section III, we argue that it is useful, although not definitive, to study models of transnational regulation developed for similar issues arising out of other forms of technology. While few if any of these models will be directly applicable to the unique characteristics of NT, the designers of these regulatory regimes faced similar strategic choices as well as similar problems, and the models they created can offer useful lessons. We briefly discuss a few potential models to illustrate the approach. Our larger research project will expand the study of transnational models beyond those discussed here, with a view to developing more specific recommendations for NT regulation.
Consistent with our emphasis on regulatory flexibility, we conclude by tentatively suggesting a sequencing of regulatory approaches designed to allow NT regulation to develop over time into broader, more elaborate and more highly legalized form as we gain greater knowledge of, and experience with, the benefits and costs of NT.
Keywords: nanotechnology, regulation, international law, technology, international relations, soft law
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