Working Paper 44
Not Another GMO. Explaining Europe’s Approach to Nanotechnologies
Despite early warnings about “knowledge-enabled mass destruction” and the ongoing battle over agricultural biotechnology, the development of nanotechnology in Europe has been remarkably quiet over the past decade: non-governmental organization (NGO) campaigns against “nano” were all but inexistent and the wider public appears largely uninterested in nanotechnology. Why has Europe’s experience with nanotechnologies been so fundamentally different from that with genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? This article argues that differences in the technologies as such cannot fully explain this divergence. Instead, a convergence of interests across key groups of stakeholders, the institutional evolution of the European Union (EU) and the experience from the GMO case enabled and facilitated a highly anticipatory and proactive approach to nanotechnology risk governance. This approach, marked by early capacity building, stakeholder involvement and gradual regulation succeeded in avoiding public polarization and in promoting a responsible development of nanotechnologies.