Thursday, August 4, 2005

NANOHYPE AWARD for July 2005

This is the second award won by the ETC Group. Mr. Dickson and I decided the title might be enough to qualify it for the Hype Award for July.

This is only the beginning of our rant. We have been tracking ETC's citations and will report on their strategy of representation at a later date.

“NanoGeoPolitics: ETC Group Surveys the Political Landscape," ETC Group Communiqué, July/August 2005, Issues 89.

First of all, thanks for the shout out on p. 32. I've heard worse and better. But I do have a few things to say. The authors might have taken some time to ask me (in person or email) what was all about, but ETC prefers opacity and name-calling. I do have a web site but we don't do business. I decided to grab the domain before someone else did. I haven't decided what to do with it, and they might have noticed, since they were in the audience at the conference we hosted here in March, that I spoke on how "societal and ethical research" funded by the NSF might be a scam. Hardly the rhetoric of a PR agent for industry or an "ethicist" who can't be trusted. If they had read the entire posting at the EPA site they might have noticed the comments were introduced as conditionals and hardly as a recommendation for policy making. The ETC team also doesn't report the dozens of studies we included which suggest high levels of caution. Remarks like these are out of contact and close to slanderous and as published might even constitute libel.

I conclude in my EPA comment with the following and it is not edited.

“Therefore, when we hear that "We must involve the public" and "We need to include stakeholders in the process," these normative claims demand more than a public hearing or an experiment in deliberation polling.

Efforts to date to reach public or citizen stakeholders involve consensus conference and citizen juries which while useful on many levels are hardly appropriate in terms of reaching large populations and have intrinsic methodological problems as well. How participants are selected for these experiments in deliberative polling is specious as well. At 13 people a shot and 4 days each, it would take about 5.6 million of these to cover the current U.S. population.

Let’s assume only about 10 percent of the American population concerns itself with science policy. They are the ones who need to be targeted and there is no evidence the selection process for these deliberative polling experiments has been methodologically scientific for the sample population. Even if we assume only 10 percent of the entire population function as interested stakeholders in science and technology decision making that is still over a half million consensus conferences.

Professionally, I find the term (stakeholders) used as a symbolic gesture to appease people and groups who might find a “nanotechnological revolution” problematic. By claiming we want to include “all relevant stakeholders,” it seems the motivation rests with managing perception rather than empowering voices.” [Emphasis added for this blog].

This is hardly business PR.

Next, their attack on Colvin is incredibly unjustified. CBEN's work, in which she shares a major role, has been instrumental in supporting studies that are testing carbon nanotubes and fullerenes for their toxicology. While ICON remains an experiment is progress, it is unfortunate that NGOs opt out of organizations trying to chart a pathway through the morass of regulations and issues like nomenclature and characterization. Why would a bona fide NGO remove themselves from discussions of this sort?

Next, about the report. Nice cover art by Raymond Page. Bush telling some balding G8 participant why he shouldn't have invested in Saddam's Iraqi economy and then complain about the US led intervention.

On p. 5, they begin with agreeing with the president of Sudan, not on Darfur, but on his worries over commodity trade. In terms of negative impacts, we get a great line - "If you're dead on the short-term, a rosy long-term outcome loses its lustre." Nice rhetoric, but what does it mean? The next line: "The bottom line is that Africa--and the South--need not surrender to a new form of scientific imperialism but can make its own evaluation and set its own course" is worse. What is this suppose to mean? Is ETC serious that Africa should or would develop indigenous nanotechnology industries given the state of their economies, starvation, and disease, esp. AIDS??? Or are they actually suggesting that Africa be left behind when the developed world moves ahead with commercialization and industrialization?

We especially enjoy the autoeroticism on p. 12 where they link their call for a moratorium to current efforts by government agencies to consider various regulatory options. There is a major misclaim here that there is any relationship between ETC's moratorium and action when the moratorium was never considered viable by anyone other than ETC. The motive for regulation is liability and a touch of altruism.

We have efforts by industrial organizations and government agencies moving ahead. In the US, the FDA, EPA, OSHA, etc. have all begun to evaluate studies and consider different approaches. Their review of regulatory options falters when they do not offer a real "practical" alternative. The NRDC recommendation against the voluntary pilot programs assumes all nanoparticles involve exposure. Not true. It also assumes all nanoparticles are functionalized. Also, not true. Finally, the time scales involved with TSCA approval would actually stymie regulation and revert to a de facto moratorium. Oh, I get it!!!

Now to their EARLY WARNING SYSTEM which is neither "early" nor a "system", and the only warning we can deduce must be "Why didn’t we adopt a moratorium like ETC wanted us to?"

ICENT oversees technology development, yet their earlier criticism of EPA and so forth was the lack of enforcement authority. Cross apply those comments here. Their timeline has negotiations "unlikely to get underway until 2015 or later." This is from the same group that complains nanotechnology is already upon us. Next they want ICENT to "run 10-20 years ahead of the likely introduction/commercialization of significant new technologies." First, we are talking about the UN. Second, there is not explanation about how this is done? Box 4 is a joke. AND why is the ICJ in charge of all this? This is a treaty and an organization set up to fail. Of course, this would lead to something like, oh yeah, ETC's moratorium. This is one of the textbook examples of a straw person argument and it's circular as well.

Good news -- there is a catalogue of regulatory agencies and organizations in this report that is useful for the beginner researching the ins and outs of tech-regulation.

However, we once again have selecting reporting, broad overclaims, and the inevitable straw person to validate their moratorium. This is expected from undergraduates and bad intercollegiate debaters. More examples of hyperbole and wrongful citation will be in my upcoming book. We are currently vetting DOWN ON THE FARM.


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