Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
Nanotechnology Stakeholders Meeting
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Mr. Chairman. Thank you for hosting this important stakeholder meeting on nanotechnology. I want to welcome all the participants. All of you know, probably more than we do, how important this issue is to the nation. Today we begin a dialogue that will give the American people the confidence that this important emerging technology is safe. Today we gather to discuss what role our government must take as nanotechnology spreads throughout our economy. Today we embark on a journey together that many, many other industries have taken. Railroads, electric power, telephones, automobiles, biotechnology are just a few examples of sectors of our economy that have traveled a similar path that nanotechnology is about to venture down. Those of you in this room have been at this far longer than anyone on this committee. You are here because we need your knowledge and expertise in order to succeed. Nanotechnology has great potential to solve many problems. It also possibly carries great risks. Let me tell you something you already know. You will be regulated. My message to the industry: Embrace appropriate regulation. My message to the health and safety community: Do not stifle innovation. My message to government: Get it right. Many in this room will argue that it is too early to pass comprehensive legislation regulating nanotechnology. I agree. We simply do not have enough information to act at this time. What we need to do now is gather basic data so we can properly evaluate the health and safety implications of this new technology. Eventually, we will be able to assess the effectiveness of our existing laws and whether the public has adequate assurances that their health is being protected. I predict that before this decade is out, this committee, and probably a few other committees in Congress will pass legislation to ensure the safety of this growing technology. What form this takes is really up to all of you. I have simple advice. Study carefully the successes and failures of every other industry that has gone before you. Developing an appropriate safety framework will allow nanotechnology to thrive, as it should. I wish all of you the best in your discussion today.