Risk regulation, EU law and emerging technologies: Smother or smooth? [Book Review]

NanoEthics 2 (1):61-71 (2008)
Risk analysis as a regulatory driver has now become firmly entrenched in public health and environmental protection. Risk analysis at any level essentially has to accommodate two gut feelings of the constituency: whether society should be risk-prone or risk averse, and whether government and its institutions can be trusted to make the necessary decisions with a high or a low degree of discretion. The precautionary principle (or rejection thereof) arguably is the ultimate reflection of the promotion of risk to a societal value. There is no doubt that especially amongst the representatives of the Member States (as opposed to the officials at the European Commission), public (pre)caution with respect to the long-term environmental and public health implications of gene technology influenced the reluctance to allow marketing of GM foods and feeds until a strict regulatory regime had been rolled out. Industry would argue that the delay in regulation, as well as the eventual regime was of such a nature as to stifle the technology. This contribution reviews a number of features of standard EU risk analysis decisions, so as to assess its current propensity towards smothering rather than smoothing the introduction of new technology. The current development of a regulatory framework for nanotechnology serves as a case study.
Keywords Emerging technologies  Law  Nanotechnology  Regulation  Risk analysis
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