When I participated in an international gathering in Switzerland to assess a "risk governance strategy for nanotechnology," our group generally agreed on "the need for an inclusive, globally focused, risk governance framework addressing both short and long-term applications of nanotechnology."
Developing a risk governance framework for long-term applications of nanotechnology will not be an easy process. The fact is that with molecular manufacturing (MM) we don't have enough information to even begin constructing a framework. More urgent now is to study the technology, determine how powerful it will be and how soon it might arrive, and perform a thorough analysis of implications.
The Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems, being developed by the Battelle research organization and the Foresight Nanotech Institute, is an important step toward understanding the technical aspects of MM. CRN's Global Task Force is currently leading the effort to learn about MM's potential impacts.
But back to the short-term. According to this story:
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has taken its research into nanotechnology for consumer products a stage further, by launching a database of the most recent launches on the market. The inventory currently holds a total of 212 products. . .
In related news, Agra-Net.com has announced a conference on:
Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture, the first conference to focus specifically on potential applications of nanotechnology in food and agriculture. . .
Opponents of nanotechnology are voicing concerns, which are reminiscent of the global biotechnology debate. [This conference] will look at the calls already being made for regulation, and give you the chance to hear the views of government agencies who have direct influence in this area. If food and agribusiness companies act now to address these concerns, they can reduce the chances of punitive legislation which may restrict future growth.
Yes, companies (and governments and NGOs) should be acting now to address concerns about short-term risks of nanoscale technologies -- and they should get involved in, or at least support, projects to develop effective risk governance for molecular manufacturing.