When only a little data is known in such cases, then unease spreads and the public quickly develop reservations. Surveys show that a large fraction of the public knows little or nothing about nanotechnology. "This is exactly the reason why it is incredibly important for researchers to actively encourage discussions about nanotechnology in society generally," as Thomas Borer, the former Swiss ambassador to Germany and CEO of swiss authentication research and development AG, reminded the audience. After all, he added, it is the general public which in the end determines whether or not a new technology is accepted.
The public's fears need to be taken seriously
In Switzerland a positive but critical attitude towards nanotechnology reigns, according to Mauro Dell'Ambrogio, the Secretary of State for Education and Research. Even its critics do not dispute the fact that nanotechnology offers solutions to problems in medicine and environmental protection. But the public's fears should also be taken seriously, and in this context both in Switzerland and in Europe various initiatives are currently in progress where representatives from science and industry, together with consumer and environmental protection organizations, are drafting safety schedules covering the use of various synthetic nanomaterials. This creates a basis which allows industry or the regulatory authorities to make informed decisions on risk reducing measures, when necessary.
Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, the head of the German Federal Environmental Ministry's NanoCommission, was of the opinion that right from the start
|Contact: Dr. Pierangelo Groening|
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)