NSTI BioNano 2010

Labeling Nanotechnology Products: Why, When and How

N. Horne, D. Bowman, S. Foss Hansen
University of California Berkeley, US

Keywords: nanotechnology, policy, labeling, risk, regulation, products, risk communication, transparency, safety, information disclosure, efficiency, trade, cosmetics, food


Until recently, no government has adopted a mandatory nano-specific labeling policy or actively pursued a voluntary labeling program. Yet this status quo is changing rapidly. Recent actions include the European Parliament push to include nanolabeling for cosmetics and food, and the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) are developing voluntary labeling guidance. Pressure is mounting to implement nanolabeling, but research on the rationales and mechanics of effective nanolabeling have yet to emerge. What have we learned from previous labeling experiences across a broad range of product sectors? Our analysis synthesizes the body of literature, both theoretical and empirically derived findings across food, agriculture, cosmetics, drugs, and energy sectors. This project seeks to find efficient and effective mechanisms for building a responsible and innovative for nanotechnology industries to better inform government and industry action. High consumer willingness to pay for information is a necessary but insufficient element to increase consumer and producer welfare for a mandatory labeling policy. Labeling can lead to unintended consequences for SMEs, certain product types, and vertically integrated markets, and is inadequate protection against high-risk materials. Ultimately, voluntary or mandatory labeling requires carefully crafted tools for selected sectors and materials combined with increased EHS research to improve outcomes.
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