Nanotechnology businesses agree ethical guidelinesJuly 2008
Companies in the developing area of nanotechnology are to be invited to adopt seven responsible practice principles that have been agreed by a working group.
The Responsible NanoCode has been signed off by the group - established by the Royal Society, Insight Investment, the Nanotechnology Industries Association and the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network - after six months of consultation.
The code will be introduced in October, along with an independent body that from 2009 will benchmark companies against the principles. All nanotechnology businesses will be asked to sign up to the code, or at least to support it publicly until they feel able to comply.
Nanotechnology, which involves the creation of objects from individual atoms and molecules, is a growing market, especially in the chemicals sector.
However, some investors and pressure groups, among them Greenpeace, have warned that nanoparticles might damage living organisms, and there are worries about toxicity.
The code working group, which had representation from BASF, Johnson Matthey, Smith & Nephew and Unilever, has tried to deal with these issues. It states that the code aims to provide guidance 'in the absence of comprehensive, appropriate legislation'.
The seven principles stipulate that companies:
be 'open and transparent' about their involvement with nanotechnology development
conduct thorough risk assessments to minimize public health risks
ensure high standards of occupational health and safety for workers handling nano materials.
Every principle in the code is accompanied by examples of how it can be implemented.
The consultation drew 45 formal submissions and a larger number of other comments from events held to consider the code.
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