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Pacific Research Institute disputes prominent Wilson Center nano report

We earlier covered informal comments by Sonia Arrison of PRI, but the organization also has an official press release on the recent widely-publicized Wilson Center report calling for regulation of nanotechnology. Some excerpts:

“The Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a California-based free-market think tank, has challenged the conclusions reached by a recent report released by the Woodrow Wilson International Center that claims that U.S. laws and regulations cannot adequately protect the public against the risks of nanotechnology. PRI believes that calls for stricter nanotechnology laws would be a serious public policy mistake.

“ ‘Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the level of individual atoms and molecules, offers the greatest benefits for society if left to grow through modest regulation, civilian research, and an emphasis on self-regulation and responsible professional culture,’ said Sonia Arrison, director of Technology Studies at PRI…’New regulations would be a disaster at this point.’

“ ‘Nanotechnology holds much promise for advances in a number of areas such as material science and medicine, but the nascent industry faces threats from those who believe government should solve problems before they occur,’ Ms. Arrison said. ‘In order to reap the rewards and protect society from potential pitfalls, nanotech scientists must be free to develop their products as well as the rules that govern their development.’

I’d love to see a debate between the report’s author and Sonia Arrison. Maybe Foresight will organize one! —Christine

2 Responses to “Pacific Research Institute disputes prominent Wilson Center nano report”

  1. Steven Fowkes Says:

    I’d like to know if anybody, including the Pacific Research Institute or the Wilson Center, has offered a regulatory definition of nanotechnology that can realistically discriminate between grandfathered nanotechnologies (like dissolving CoQ10 in lipid to increase assimilation, or using biological enzymes to degrade polutants, or forming nanoparticle colloids of metallic silver particles) and the new nanotechnologies (that, supposedly, should or shouldn’t be regulated).

    I think there may even be a problem distinguishing biological nanotechnologies (a heavily grandfathered field) from nanomachine technologies (a lightly grandfathered field), about which there may be the greatest agreement as to risk, regulated or not. How can one discriminate the regulatory status of, say, attaching of xenobiotic or inorganic compounds to peptides from the regulatory status of attaching peptides to some kind of nanoconstruct.

    Is there a fundamentally variant risk from receptors made from protein, and receptors (capture agents) made from polymers?

    Off-site comments are welcome at

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    The definitions I’ve seen so far do not accomplish what Steven is asking for.

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