Azara Blog: A nanotechnology citizens' jury is set up

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Date published: 2005/05/23

The BBC says:

A panel made up of ordinary members of the public is to debate the pros and cons of emerging nanotechnologies.

The citizens' jury, called NanoJury UK, will spend five weeks from 25 May exploring the big issues around the tiny science, to help inform policy.

The UK government ordered a review of how the science, the fine control of materials, might impact our future.

Science minister, Lord Sainsbury, said the review, announced in February, should involve public consultations.

He explained the review was needed to ensure current regulations that safeguard the environment and people's health were robust, as the science evolves.

The 20 members of the citizens' jury, which will be based in Halifax, will hear evidence from a range of experts, "witnesses", about future potential applications, risks and benefits of the developing science.

The witnesses will be chosen by a panel of experts who will oversee the jury's activities, and a science advisory panel. Both comprise a mix of academic, industry, government, and not-for-profit, representatives.

The jury will discuss the pros and cons, and agree on a "verdict". Their thoughts will then be fed back into the government's Nanotechnology Co-ordination Group.

"We aim to promote transparency and ensure that our world-beating science is carried out in an environment where the broader societal issues surrounding technology exploitation are fully explored," said Professor Mark Welland from the University of Cambridge Nanoscience Centre.

He added that it was crucial that public understanding of complex scientific issues was based on fact and accurate information.

Government and nanotechnology experts are keen to avoid political and public conflicts over high-tech developments, which happened with genetically modified organisms (GMO).

"So many questions about GM technology went unasked in the early stages," explained Doug Parr from Greenpeace.

"We want to provide an opportunity for people to give their perspectives on nanotechnology at a time when we hope they can still make a difference.

"We may be able to harness nanotechnology for environmental and social good, not harm, but it will depend on decisions now."

A completely pointless exercise and a perfect indication of what happens when so-called environmentalists have too much influence on public policy. Do these 20 members of the panel (no doubt chosen with perfect political correctness) really represent the 60 million citizens of Britain in any meaningful way? And Greenpeace is being disingenous in their comments. GMO organisms can do plenty of "environmental and social good", only they were developed almost totally in an American commercial environment, which the chattering classes of Europe hate, which was the main reason they opposed that technology. The scientists and government this time around are trying to buy off the chattering classes with this pointless consultation exercise in which the chattering classes can let off steam. It's possible that will be enough to satisfy the so-called environmentalists, but don't count on it, since they will still have their religious objections to commercial technology, especially American commercial technology.

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