A decision to halt all research and development into nanotechnology would be
irresponsible and dangerous, according to the non-profit Center for
Responsible Nanotechnology, an independent policy research group. This
statement comes in response to a lengthy report issued by the watchdog group
ETC, which recommends that governments declare an immediate moratorium on
commercial production of new nanomaterials.
“ETC’s report was wide-ranging, but perhaps too ambitious,” says Mike Treder,
Executive Director of CRN. “Going from biotechnology to structural nanotechnology, and
then all the way to molecular nanotechnology is inappropriate. It is
frequently a mistake to generalize from one area of technology to another.”
Biotechnology is not the same as nanotechnology. Moreover, molecular
nanotechnology (MNT) is quite distinct from
structural nanotechnology (SNT).
The technologies are so different that they must be analyzed and administered
separately. In addition, it’s too early to recommend specific actions with
regard to molecular nanotechnology.
“CRN is actively researching MNT policy issues. The first thing we learned is
that simple solutions won’t work,” says Chris Phoenix, CRN’s Director of
“We agree with many of the points made by ETC,” says Treder. “For example, it
is vital that economic and humanitarian benefits from advanced nanotech accrue
to all strata of world society. The quickest way to realize those benefits,
however, is to put more emphasis on research and development, not less.”
CRN contends that ETC’s report went too far in calling for a complete
moratorium. An attempted global shutdown of molecular nanotech development
would not assure anyone’s safety or security. Rather, it would drive research
underground and could result in a dangerous and unstable black market.
“We’ve done our own analysis of the Precautionary Principle and its relevance
to nanotechnology,” says Phoenix. “There are ways to apply the Principle and
allow the safe and effective use of nanotech, while still protecting users,
developers, and innocent bystanders. That’s where our research is going.”