Government says no to new nano regulations

You know what they say about the Dutch being an easy-going people. This was recently manifest in the decision of their government to refrain from creating a new regulatory regime to cover synthetic biology, in which biotechnology and nanotechnology converge.

After considering expert counsel on the societal implications of synthetic biology, the Dutch government has concluded that this rapidly growing field of scientific endeavour is sufficiently regulated within the existing framework. Its progress will be monitored by interdepartmental working groups, and if anything crops up that requires fresh public debate or new legislation, then the politicians will act. Otherwise they will leave things be.

In the US and UK there is much lobbying for extensive legislative action now. In certain cases at least new laws may be warranted, but some of the calls for action appear driven by ideological rather than scientific and technological imperatives.

We are constantly calling on governments to do stuff, often without considering whether new legislation is really necessary. Regulating harmful and potentially harmful industries is of course essential, but creating whole new bureaucracies may not be the best way of going about it.