Jim Thomas of the ETC Group made a crucial point on and interview on BBC Radio 4s environmental program "Costing the Earth", which this week looked at how environmental groups manipulate the media and whether scientists have learnt anything from this? Starting off with a look at how the media was successfully used against Shell by Greenpeace the program soon moves on to nanotechnology.
While the ETC Group have achieved their objective, which we have discussed at length with a wide spectrum of environmental groups, which is to get environmental effects onto the agenda of nanoscientists, Thomas pointed out that getting to the truth about the present mundane reality of nanotech is always obscured by the twin myths of nanorobots and grey goo.
There is an element of ambiguity to ETCs arguments, although we accept that this may also be a result of the programs editing, in claiming that molecular nanotechnology obscures the real issue, while simultaneously accusing scientists of pooh poohing concerns.
The reaction of the scientific community was not to pooh pooh concerns about nanotechnology, but to separate reality, which Jim Thomas claims is "quite frightening enough" from the future prospects of nanobots and grey goo. While dismissal of concerns was perhaps the reaction of choice from some of the US nano business community, we have seen studies dating back almost a decade into the environmental and health aspects of nanoparticles.
While these are not in the public domain, it is a standard part of every chemicals and materials business legal arsenal to investigate future liabilities, and understand the possible risks before a product is launched. After all, no one wants to be subject to a class action suit a few years down the line if it can be possibly avoided.