Dr Peter Singer, Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics and Dr Erin Court, the lead author of this report, argue that concerns over the legitimate risks of nanotechnology should be addressed through a new international process and not by resorting to a moratorium on research that promises vast improvement in the lives of five billion people in developing countries.
Dr Singer said: "Opposition from Prince Charles and pressure groups around the world should not be permitted to diminish the health, environmental and economic opportunities of the poor in Africa, Latin America and Asia."
This report outlines for the first time the health, environmental and economic benefits for developing countries of nanotechnology (NT). These include:
Dr Peter Singer, who is a medical ethics expert, said: "While there are legitimate risks that need to be managed, an exclusive focus on the risks will create another divide 'the nano-divide' similar to the digital and genomics divides between industrialized and developing countries. There is a failure adequately to consider and understand how nanotechnology can bring benefits to 5 billion people in developing countries."
This survey of nanotechnology research in developing countries shows a surprising level of activity underway. They cluster developing countries into three groups based on their activity level: 'front-runners' (China, South Korea, India); 'middle ground' (Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Chile); and 'up and comers' (Argentina, Mexico).
The authors call for a new international network to assess emerging technologies for development, identify the potential risks and benefits of NT incorporating developed and developing world perspectives, and to explore the effects of a potential 'nano-divide'.
Such a global network would serve as a focal point to commission and collect research results, promote awareness of the potential applications of NT for development, create new regulatory regimes (or build upon existing ones) for managing NTs risks and promoting global public good.
The authors highlight the following concerns: How long will nanomaterials remain in the environment? How readily will nanomaterials bind to environmental contaminants? Will these particles move up through the food chain and what will be their effect on humans? How will the incorporation of artificial materials into human systems affect health, security and privacy? Who will control the means of production and who will get to debate the risks and benefits? What will be the effects of military and corporate control over NT?
There are also potential risk management issues specific to developing countries: displacement of traditional markets, the imposition of foreign values, the fear that technological advances will be extraneous to development needs, and the lack of resources to establish, monitor and enforce safety regulations.
Co-author Abdallah Daar said: "while overly apprehensive views and fear-mongering can prohibit serious progress, addressing the legitimate concerns associated with NT can foster public support and allow the technology to progress in a socially responsible manner. Will industrialized nations continue to invest in stain-resistant 'nano' trousers, NT-based cosmetics and other products solely for the rich, or will NTs potential to improve lives in the developing world be seized?"
This report will appear on Nanotechweb.org's (http://nanotechweb.org) new nanotechnology and society channel - a forum for debate and discussion on issues relating to nanotechnology.
Notes to editors:
1. For further information contact: David Reid, Press Officer, Insitute of Physics, Tel: 020-7470-4815, Mobile: 07734-256729, E-mail: email@example.com.
2. Dr Peter Singer, Dr Abdallah Daar and other co-authors are available for interview. Please call 001 416-538-8712 to schedule a time.
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4. University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics
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The JCB is a partnership among the University of Toronto and nine hospitals. It provides leadership in bioethics research, education, and clinical activities. Its vision is to be a model of interdisciplinary collaboration in order to create new knowledge and improve practices with respect to bioethics. The JCB does not advocate positions on specific issues, although its individual members may do so. The goals of the JCB are:
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