This is part 2 of an interview with Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, NDP (New Democrat Party) who tabled the first Canadian bill to regulate nanotechnology. Yesterday’s part of the interview featured some biographical notes about Mr. Julian and his answers to questions about why he, in particular, tabled the bill; the NDP’s shadow science minister’s (Jim Malloway) involvement; and the NDP’s commitment to science policy. Today, Julian explains why he favours the application of the precautionary principle to nanotechnology, notes the research he used before writing his bill, and comments on a national inventory scheme. NOTE: As some folks may prefer other media or summaries/commentaries on these reports, in situations where I have additional material, I’ve taken the liberty of giving links, clearly marking my additions.
Why do you favour applying the precautionary principle which has received some criticism as it favours the status quo?
I believe that the precautionary principle does not favour the status quo. The status quo hinders appropriate applications of precaution. Environmental, health, and safety gaps in the application of Nanotechnology are a shared concern between countries, as reflected in recent reports to Congress and the EU and at the OECD. Precaution towards discovery, product, production, use and eventual disposal is simple common sense.
The precautionary principle deters action without reflection. When a product is massively put on the market we have to be sure that it will not have adverse effects on health and the environment, and not just a short lived positive effect on the bottom line.
What research materials support your (BILL) and are these materials that you would recommend interested citizens read?
I have a list of links concerning these materials:
- UNESCO: The Ethics and Politics of Nanotechnology
- Science and Technology Committee – First Report: Nanotechnologies and food report ordered by the House of Lords (January 2010 – Recommendation 12 p.76 re nanometre definition)
- The Chatham House briefing paper, Regulating Nanomaterials: A Transatlantic Agenda (September 2009) an excellent eight page read:
ED. NOTE: There is a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN)webcast of a presentation by the folks who authored the report. The webcast and speaker presentations can be found here and my commentary on the webcast here.
- A fourth position statement issued by Commission de l’éthique de la science et de la technologie in Québec on the scientific, legal and ethical implications of nanotechnology.
- The OECD: ANALYSIS OF INFORMATION GATHERING INITIATIVES ON MANUFACTURED NANOMATERIALS (November 2009), provides an international action(s) analysis (p.24)
- Nanotechnology Oversight – An Agenda for the new administration (July 2008) J Clarence Davies
ED. NOTE: PEN webcast a presentation by J. Clarence Davies on Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology available here along with a speaker’s presentation and additional materials.
- International Approaches to the Regulatory Governance of Nanotechnology (Jennifer Pelley and Marc Saner – April 2009 _ Carleton University – School of Public Policy and Administration)
- The Regulatory Governance Initiative paper, International Approaches to the Regulatory Governance of Nanotechnology (April 2009) provides good overview:
http://www.carleton.ca/regulation/publications/Nanotechnology_Regulation Paper April2009.pdf
- The CRS Report to Congress, Nanotechnology and Environmental, Health, and Safety: Issues for Consideration, presents analysis on EHS as % of US budget.
- The CRS Report to Congress, Engineered Nanoscale Materials and Derivative Products: Regulatory Challenges, recommend TABLE 1 – CRS-4, p.7:
- The National Nanotechnology Initiative document lays out a substantive, and sound, research program. Canada’s strategy remains limited in scope and vision.
I noticed mention of a public inventory for nanomaterials and it reminded me of a proposed Environment Canada nanomaterials inventory or reporting plan that was announced in January 2008. Do you know if this inventory ever took place or what its current status is?
The inventory is not completed yet. The bill develops a mandatory requirement for an inventory and there have been no prior operational inventories regarding nanotechnology products, which is why this bill is so important.
I would like to stress that in addition to the precautionary principle, Bill C-494 is built on a definition of Nanotechnology that adopts a broader and more inclusive definition of nanomaterials. This is consistent with the findings of the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee:
- We recommend that the Government should work towards ensuring that any regulatory definition of nanomaterials proposed at a European level, in particular in the Novel Foods Regulation, should not include a size limit of 100nm but instead refer to ‘the nanoscale’ to ensure that all materials with a dimension under 1000nm are considered.A change in functionality, meaning how a substance interacts with the body, should be the factor that distinguishes a nanomaterial from its larger form within the nanoscale.
UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee
Nanotechnologies and Food (8 January 2010)
Recommendation 12, p.76
This is in contrast with Health Canada policy which looks at narrow definition of nanomaterials:
- Health Canada’s Science Policy Directorate announced the adoption of the Interim Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials and its posting on the Health Canada website 2 March 2010. This Government of Canada policy adopts a 1-100nm “inclusive” regulatory benchmark, effective immediately, with a public comment period underway.
ED. NOTE: I made an error in my question, the proposed nano inventory by Environment Canada was announced in Jan. 2009. My postings on the announcement are here and here. The odd thing about the announcement was that it was made initially by PEN which is located in Washington, DC and subsequently picked up by Canadian news media. As far as I know, Environment Canada has never offered comment about its 2009 plan for a nanotechnology inventory.
Tomorrow Julian wraps up with answers to questions about why someone who’s shadow portfolio includes international trade is interested in nanotechnology and the potential costs for his proposed legislation.
More on the UK 2010 Nanotechnologies Strategy Report
Dexter Johnson over on Nanoclast has done some detective work in a bid to understand why the market numbers used in the report differ wildly from anyone else’s. From Dexter’s posting,
It [the report] quotes market numbers for nano-enabled products that are such a drastic departure from most estimates that it leaves one questioning why tens of billions of dollars are being poured in by governments around the world to fund research.
If you have it, do take the time to follow along as Dexter trails the company that the UK government used as its source for their market numbers. Amongst other names, I recognized one, ObservatoryNANO. (It was an organization I followed briefly and dismissed as being frivolous.)
One other commenter has emerged, Tim Harper. Now as the principle of a nanotechnology business consulting company (Cientifica) some might be inclined to dismiss his comments but they have the ring of honest frustration and a sincere desire to contribute. From Harper’s posting,
Every UK nanotech report to date has excluded any data provided by UK companies. Even offers of free copies of our market research to government committees looking into various bits of nanotechnology provoke the same response as if we’d offered them a fresh dog turd wrapped in newspaper.
And now for a complete change of pace,
Dylan Thomas and neuroscience
There‘s an event tonight (Thursday, March 25, 2010) in Vancouver being put on by the Dylan Thomas Circle (he lived in North Vancouver for a time as he worked on Under the volcano). It’s being held at the Red Dragon Pub at the Cambrian Hall on 17th & Main St. Doors open at 6:45 pm and the presentation starts at 7:30 pm followed by an open reading. From the news release,
THE DYLAN THOMAS CIRCLE OF VANCOUVER presents
“Dylan Thomas, Creativity and Neuroscience”
Ariadne Sawyer will lead an exploration into creativity and the creative process as manifest through the works and the life of Dylan Thomas. She will investigate why we are creative, what happens during the creative process and what effect it has upon us.
This will be followed by an intermission and an: ‘OPEN READING’: an invitation to everyone who is interested to read aloud a poem or literary excerpt of their choice. This can be your own work, Dylan’s work or any other writer’s material. Most importantly, it is our chance to indulge in a little of our own creativity and to do it in a relaxed and in a friendly atmosphere.
About Ariadne Sawyer:
Ariadne has done on line Performance Plus Coaching with trainees from England, France, Canada and the United States for the last two years. She has received the Award of Excellence given by McLean-Hunter for the Brain Bulletin Series. Ariadne publishes an electronic newsletter called: Ariadne’s Performance Plus Newsletter along with Performance Plus Tips which are sent to all the participating trainees. She also co-hosts a weekly radio program on CFRO 102.7 FM, which has been on the air for the past two years. The Performance Plus Mini Course has been presented on the show with astounding success. She has two electronic courses available soon on the Internet. Performance Plus Level One and the Performance Plus Diplomacy Course. Ariadne has worked with trainees from Europe, the US and across Canada.