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No. 019/11 | Berlin, 02.02.2011

Röttgen: We should use the opportunities of nanotechnology

NanoKommission presents its final report

The NanoKommission, established by the Federal Environment Ministry in 2006, concluded its work with a one-day conference held in the representation of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia today. On the occasion of the presentation of the final report, Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen highlighted in particular the opportunities of nanotechnology, for example in drinking water treatment, energy saving and the rehabilitation of contaminated soils. He said that as a highly modern, industrialised country we must pursue a strategy of investing in those environmental and efficiency technologies that at the same time offer enormous opportunities for growth. "More than 900 businesses in Germany are involved in nanotechnology development, more than 60,000 jobs have been created in this sector - and many more could be added”, Environment Minister Röttgen commented. The Minister advocated further strengthening Germany’s pioneering role in environmental technologies and extending it to nanotechnology, without ignoring the possible risks: “Nanotechnology shows great promise, but we still know too little about its potential impacts on the environment and human health. I strongly support stepping up research into risks and establishing a European nanoproduct register", Minister Röttgen added.

The purpose of such a register would be to allow authorities to trace nanomaterials in products and thus enable them to enforce the polluter-pays principle. Minister Röttgen also pointed out that the Federal Research Ministry has increased the budget for research into risks and that the Federal Environment Ministry advances research and risk minimisation for the most relevant nanomaterials in the framework of the Environmental Research Plan and its involvement in various OECD programmes.

The NanoKommission had the task of discussing the opportunities and risks of nanotechnologies and formulating recommendations to the Federal Government regarding the responsible use of these technologies. In the NanoDialogue, 100 representatives from the scientific world, the business community, environmental, consumer and women’s associations, trade unions, churches, ministries and authorities jointly undertook to

  • provide input to the public debate on the opportunities and risks of using nanotechnologies,
  • identify areas in which nanotechnologies can make a contribution to sustainable innovation and
  • develop instruments for a responsible use of nanomaterials.

To discuss the different topics the NanoKommission set up four thematic groups and one working group. Consensus and disagreement have been contrasted in the thematic group reports. These results are the basis for the report of the NanoKommission. The issues discussed included an analysis of the existing regulatory framework with a focus on the precautionary principle, a review of the voluntary commitment by industry and the development of assessment criteria for opportunities and risks of nanomaterials and nanoproducts.

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