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05-08-2017 | Original Paper | Issue 1/2018

NanoEthics 1/2018

Nanotechnology and Risk Governance in the European Union: the Constitution of Safety in Highly Promoted and Contested Innovation Areas

Journal:
NanoEthics > Issue 1/2018
Author:
Hannot Rodríguez

Abstract

The European Union (EU) is strategically committed to the development of nanotechnology and its industrial exploitation. However, nanotechnology also has the potential to disrupt human health and the environment. The EU claims to be committed to the safe and responsible development of nanotechnology. In this sense, the EU has become the first governing body in the world to develop nanospecific regulations, largely due to legislative action taken by the European Parliament, which has compensated for the European Commission’s reluctance to develop special regulations for nanomaterials. Nevertheless, divergences aside, political bodies in the EU assume that nanotechnology development is controllable and take for granted that both the massive industrial use of nanomaterials and a high level of environmental and health protection are compatible. However, experiences such as the European controversy over agri-food biotechnology, which somewhat delegitimized the regulatory authority of the EU over technological safety and acceptability, arguably show that controllability assumptions are contestable on the grounds of alternative socio-economic and cultural preferences and values. Recently developed inclusive governance models on safety and innovation, such as “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI), widely claim that a diversity of considerations and issues are integrated into R&D processes. Even so, the possibility of more radically alternative constitutions of socio-technical safety seems to be seriously limited by the current ideology of innovation and economic imperatives of the global, knowledge-based, capitalist economy.

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