Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) last week made a background paper available on their website, which they now concede contained no new research and none that their organization had actually performed, entitled "Nanotechnology for Humans and the Environment: Increasing Chances, Minimizing Risks," that got the German and international press to generate frightening headlines like “Germany warns over dangers of nanotechnology”.This wasn’t the reaction they were expecting so the the UBA authorities wanted to make clear in a new article that they don’t think nanotechnology is all bad. Unfortunately the damage was done and any attempts to rectify the situation will only exacerbate the problem by making the conspiracy-theory-minded folks think they are only changing their tune because of the industrial importance of nanotech for Germany. The only thing that the UBA has in their favor for covering up their naïve and ill-conceived decision to catalogue a bunch of research that is not even their own on the risk of nanoparticles is that to a large extent the public doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, as I have bemoaned before, the risks and benefits of nanotechnology will largely be played out in flashy headlines intended to sell papers or get website hits. The sooner that government organizations around the world understand this and apply the degree of circumspection and reflection needed to deal with this, the more likely we will avoid these little conflagrations sprouting up with little behind them other than manufactured hysteria.