i am so glad i took the time on the bus to read the ABA journal this month from cover to cover. might have missed this gem!
The [Nanotechnology] committee expects to include ethics topics on its nanotech agenda, says Hsieh, who notes that some scientists believe nano-scale biology has the potential to significantly enhance the performance, durability and health of the human body.
"So there is the question: Is it ethical to do so?" says Hsieh, a member of the advisory board of the Nanoethics Group, an independent research organization based at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. "And who would benefit—just the rich people who can afford it? It would be like cosmetic surgery, only more so."
WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?
Experts say Congress ultimately will have to play a greater role in ensuring that concerns about nanotechnology issues are addressed sufficiently. Otherwise, they say, public doubts about the field will grow.
Bergeson expects Congress, sometime soon, to review whether the Toxic Substances Control Act in its current form is adequate to deal with nano-scale materials.
In April, public interest groups and the chemical industry wound up on the same side in support of a 10 percent set-aside to fund environmental, health and safety research as part of a roughly $1.5 billion reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
"Public trust is the dark horse in nanotechnology's future," said David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Technologies, in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Innovation. "If government and industry do not work to build public confidence in nanotechnology, consumers may reach for the 'No nano' label in the future, and investors will put their money elsewhere. Public perceptions about risks—real and perceived—can have large economic impacts."
Referring to the kinds of coalitions that are developing on the issue, Bergeson says, "Nanotechnology forges alliances where you might not expect them."
That's just one of the surprises in a field that promises many more to come.