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MEPs get the fear over nanotechnology

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MEPs are veering between tech utopianism and fear of the planet being buried under grey goo if their latest crop of votes is anything to go by.

Strasbourg's denizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of "more prudence" over the use of nanomaterials in consumer products yesterday, demanding that the Commission evaluate whether such materials should be restricted to closed systems.

The vote on the report was 391 in favour, with three against and four abstentions.

MEPs demanded "more information to consumers on the use of nanomaterials in consumer products", including prominent use of the word "nano" on the packaging of any product that uses what might be described as "nanomaterials".

They deplored "the absence of a proper evaluation of the de facto application of the general provisions of Community law in the light of the actual nature of nanomaterials." MEPs declared that nanomaterials "potentially present significant new risks due to their minute size, such as increased reactivity and mobility, possibly leading to increased toxicity in combination with unrestricted access to the human body, and possibly involving quite different mechanisms of interference with the physiology of human and environmental species."

As well as questioning whether they should be restricted to closed systems, MEPS asked the commission to consider the question of liability for nanometerials and whether "all exposure routes (inhalation, dermal and other) are addressed."

The vote came just days after MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of that staple of tech utopians, e-money. They accepted 364 to 30 a report calling for accelerated e-money adoption. Amongst the measures suggested to speed the adoption was the lowering of the "required capital" to start an e-money institution from €1m to €350,000, with institutions only having to guarantee with their funds at least 2 per cent of the outstanding e-money.

In another wild-eyed tech vote last week, MEPs voted 529 to 42 in favour of a draft directive on the application of Intelligent Transport Systems in road transport. These would facilitate applications including electronic tolling, traffic management and navigation. Black boxes in other words.

They said they were "enthusiastic about the benefits ITS can bring to European citizens in terms of road safety, reducing traffic jams and better journey planning." However, they didn't completely swallow the Kool-Aid, calling on the commission to update the proposals to focus on vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, and ensure "respect for data protection and privacy." ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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