Friday

24th Feb 2017

EU wants code of conduct for nanotech research

The European Commission has adopted a voluntary code of conduct in the field of nanotechnology research hoping to establish some guidelines in this fast-growing but little-understood research area.

Although in many quarters still thought of as an industry out of science-fiction, nanotechnology – the manufacture of products on an atomic and molecular scale - is already very much up and running, with so-called first-generation nano innovations already on the market in such products as cosmetics, sunscreens, paints, packaging, clothing and varnishes.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Technology has advanced well ahead of public policy, and the commission hopes to correct this with its "Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research".

"Knowledge gaps remain about the impact of these technologies on human health and the environment, as well as issues relating to ethics and the respect of fundamental rights," said the commission in a statement on Friday (8 February).

It is urging member states to adopt the code.

The code covers seven general principles including sustainability, precaution, inclusiveness and accountability, with the commission hoping universities, research institutes and companies, will adhere to ensure the safe development and use of nanotechnologies.

"Nanotechnologies and nanosciences could very well be the next revolution in enabling technologies," said EU research commissioner Janez Potočnik.

"The code of conduct is a tool ... that will make it very simple to address the legitimate concerns that can arise regarding nanotechnologies," he added.

The code requests that nano research activities be comprehensible to the public, performed in a transparent manner, accountable, safe and sustainable and not threatening to the environment.

The code also requests that such research be conducted in accordance with the precautionary principle. This says that when there is the possibility that nanotechnology applications may harm human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken - even if some cause and effect relationships are not yet fully established scientifically.

Because of the technology's potential effects on the environment, green groups have in recent years begun campaigns calling for greater transparency in the research process and an adherence to this principle.

Environmentalists largely welcomed Friday's announcement.

"We do like a lot of the ideas that are in the code of conduct," said Aleksandra Kordecka, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe, "but it really doesn't go far enough, as it's only a voluntary code. It needs to be mandatory."

Ms Kordecka also argues that nano research should be directed more toward applications that are of genuine benefit to everyone, such as nanotechnologies that can neutralise pollution or help with the battle against climate change, rather than "unnecessary" but profitable commercial applications.

"Do we really need research into socks that don't stink?" she said, referring to one potential commercial nano innovation.

Focus

Nanofoods - Coming to a plate near you?

Chocolate that doesn't make you fat. Drinks designed by the press of a button. 'Meat' made from plant protein. Welcome to nanofoods - a brave new world that industry is keen to exploit. But will Europeans ever take to it?

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with the EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

Feature

Armenia-Azerbaijan war: Line of contact

“Frontline coffee is the best coffee in the world”, an Armenian lieutenant told EUobserver, with soldiers' morale among their strongest weapons in the war against an oil-rich foe.

Juncker envisages EU of core groups

Commission head Juncker say EU states which want deeper integration should press ahead in core groups, in reaction to the UK’s departure.

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with the EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  2. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  3. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  4. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  5. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  6. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  7. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  9. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  12. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play