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U.S. seen as more open to nanotechnology than Europe

Reason magazine, which generally takes positions in favor of technology and free enterprise, has a cover story on nanotechnology (full text not posted yet, check link later) which speculates that the U.S. may be more open to nanotech than Europe:

In the U.S., despite our flirtation with paranoia about biotech and our routine panics over pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals, our resilient gee-whiz attitude toward machines may yet make our country a haven for unbounded nanotech. But we will have to be watchful of those who seek to smother it as a potential monster long before it has had a chance to yield anything remotely resembling the dreams of the optimists or the nightmares of the detractors.

Given people’s instinctive unease about strange things entering their bodies, we may be better off if the American public becomes enamored of relatively trivial nanotech applications, such as the now-omnipresent stain-resistant pants, before taking much notice of the far more beneficial medical uses. Biotech endures in the U.S. largely because people are accustomed to seeing it used in corn, soybeans, wheat, and other staples of the food supply before opponents had really spread their message. Similarly, we may find that a nation long accustomed to unnaturally clean pants is more receptive to nano-based treatments for cancer and Parkinson’s.

Our view here at Foresight is that, compared to Europe’s caution and Asia’s relative lack of attention to EHS concerns, the U.S. is likely to take a middle course, and that is probably a good idea. Such a middle course could well lead to the most rapid progress over the long term. —Christine

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