Australia’s first nanotechnology public “dialogue” accused of industry bias

\Australia’sFriends of the Earth on August 5 accused the Queensland government of unacceptable industry bias in its handling of Australia’s first ever attempt to involve members of the public in development of nanotechnology policy recommendations. Of the many members of the “Nanodialogues”, initiated this week, there is no other representation from nanotechnology stakeholders who have been critical, eg environment, health, civil liberties, social justice groups, unions, or ethicists.

nano artist impression

Friends of the Earth today accused the Queensland government of unacceptable industry bias in its handling of Australia’s first ever attempt to involve members of the public in development of nanotechnology policy recommendations.

The Queensland “Nanodialogues”, initiated this week, involves 12 members of the public in “dialogue” with 8 nanotechnology scientists – some of them employed by industry groups with a financial interest in the outcomes of the “dialogue”. One social scientist has been invited to participate, but there is no other representation from nanotechnology stakeholders who have been critical, eg environment, health, civil liberties, social justice groups, unions, or ethicists.

“It is completely unacceptable that Queensland’s “Nanodialogues” are intentionally excluding from the “dialogue” all the nanotechnology stakeholders who could have a critical point of view,” said Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project spokesperson Georgia Miller.

“It is appalling that industry figures who have a financial interest in the outcomes of the “Nanodialogues” are invited into a closed door “dialogue” with members of the public, while at the same time nanotechnology critics are excluded. Yet the outcomes of this biased “dialogue” are slated to inform and influence Queensland’s nanotechnology policy development”.

“How does the Queensland government expect “Nanodialogues” participants to develop informed recommendations for nanotechnology research funding and policy priorities when they are presented with only one, heavily pro-nanotechnology, point of view?”

“Nanotechnology industry representatives are unlikely to draw “Nanodialogues” participants’ attention to recent findings that carbon nanotubes present similar health risks to asbestos. Industry representatives are similarly unlikely to tell participants about calls from some of the world’s poorest people for a moratorium on nanotechnology in food and agriculture, because of their concern it will further threaten their food security”.

“In contrast to the Queensland “Nanodialogues”, the UK “Nanodialogues” after which this program was named had equal industry and NGO representation. The Queensland “Nanodialogues” are simply a sham and a public relations exercise. This is not a “dialogue”, just a free ride for nanotechnology promoters to shore up support for their industry.”

“Friends of the Earth is a big supporter of public participation informing nanotechnology policy development. But this is a clear example of how not to do it,” said Ms Miller.

 

Note: The project is overseen by a reference group which includes two NGOs. However reference group members will not be permitted to interact with “Nanodialogues” participants. Furthermore, because the two participating NGOs are not engaged in nanotechnology work, they are likely to have limited knowledge of nanotechnology issues. Despite running Australia’s only dedicated NGO campaign on nanotechnology since 2005 and having a Queensland branch, Friends of the Earth was not invited to participate.

 

For further comment: Georgia Miller 0437 979 402