Nanotechnology Policies in Latin America: Risksto Health and Environment
NanoEthics Ethics for Technologies that converge at the nanoscale ISSN 1871-4757 Nanoethics DOI 10.1007/s11569-013-0178-2
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Nanotechnology Policies in Latin America: Risks to Health and Environment Guillermo Foladori
Received: 22 March 2013 / Accepted: 29 July 2013 # Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Abstract The presence of nanotechnologies grew and spread throughout Latin America during the first decade of the 21st century. Science and Technology policies have played an important role in the performance of these new technologies. Various international institutions, such as the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Organization of American States promoted similar Science and Technology policies, and included nanotechnology as a priority area. This article shows the role of these Science and Technology policies in the promotion of specific objectives and the gap that was left due to the failure to incorporate an examination of the potential risks to health and environment, not to mention other labor-related effects. The omission of matters relevant to workers and consumers by these institutions led to a distancing from organized civil society. Keywords Nanotechnology . S&T policies . Research and Development . Latin America
Introduction The tendency toward the homogenization of Science and Technology (S&T) public policy has a long history [3, 62]. International institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and G. Foladori (*) Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Zacatecas, Mexico e-mail: [email protected]
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were the driving forces behind common S&T policies in Latin America. This does not mean that their application was identical in all cases; but in the majority of countries one can find common features derived from those directives. The countries of Latin American have been influenced by a paradigm shift in S&T policies since the middle of the 1990s. Concepts and methodologies such as “knowledge-based economy”, “national systems of innovation”, “networks” and “S&T priorities” came to dominate the discourse. These concepts and methodologies led to modifications of institutions, financing, organizational structure, evaluation criteria, and participation mechanisms of scientists and other actors in the field of S&T. Nanotechnology (NT) emerged and developed in this context. This article analyzes one aspect of NT policies in Latin America: the presence afforded to the risks to health and environment, and to related labor matters. It concludes that international organizations such as the World Bank, IDB, OAS, and the OECD influenced the reorientation of S&T in Latin America toward the paradigm of the knowledge-based economy early in this new century, and identified NT as a priority area among others, though they abstained from introducing the theme of risks to workers, consumers and the environment. The matter was not alien to global discussions, however, and by choosing to omit such an important theme, international organizations distanced themselves from the interests of organized civil society. Similarly, scientists and academics oriented in their work and goals by the newly-imposed S&T structure, also have done little to call attention to the topic of risks in the development of NT. The issue was brought to the table by unions
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and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), concerned for the effects of NT on health, the environment, and repercussions on the working class and consumers. The S&T Context in Which Nanotechnology Arose in Latin America The development of NT in Latin America followed two main paths during the first decade of this century. On one side was the internal impetus toward scientific development. When nuclear energy’s potential – both to positive and negative ends – became clear during the Second World War, countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Mexico pushed the development of physics. Various Latin American countries by the 1990s had built up a physics and chemistry laboratory infrastructure and a solid body of researchers in basic sciences. Brazil built the only Latin American Synchrotron Light Source (LNLS - in use since 1997) in the city of Campinas, São Paulo. Numerous NT research projects were undertaken since the 1990s in different countries. One example was supported by the Ibero-American Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED) from 1999 to 2002, in which a network of researchers from seven IberoAmerican countries (five from Latin America) worked on the “Manufacture and Characterization of Nano-structures for micro- and optical electronics” . When the United States launched its National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000, researchers in Latin American came to see the need to push for something similar in their own countries. In Brazil, a group of experts was created in 2000 to identify how NT could be incorporated into its S&T plans . In Mexico, researchers from a number of universities and public research centers launched a national NT proposal in 2002 .1 Parallel to the internal development of physicschemical science in these countries, a number of international bodies promoted common S&T policies, and from the end of the 1990s all came to be oriented toward the knowledge-based economy concept. The World Bank  suggested that Research and Development (R&D) had a key role to play in the economy, and that developing countries had to invest heavily in knowledge, prioritizing innovation that contributed to improving international competitiveness. The OECD held that, in order to sustain economic growth, it is necessary to invest in knowledge . 1
This program was not ultimately developed.
The general idea behind the gamble on knowledge is that technology is not simply a matter of machinery and tools: it includes a significant aspect of intangible assets (knowledge). Part of this knowledge lies is codified (books, articles, computer programs, patents, etc.) and intellectual property rights allow them to be negotiated in the market. However, another part of knowledge is not codified, such as personal communication among scientists, practical experience and collaboration networks; still knowledge has to be adapted or adjusted to fit the conditions in which it is applied and popularized. The market, then, is not perfect. It is for this reason that the State is a key player in the acquisition, adaptation to the given conditions and the spread of knowledge. This is achieved in many ways, such as with awards, research funding, publicprivate partnerships, subsidies to innovating businesses, the formation of research networks, etc. The objective of the knowledge economy approach is also found in the National Systems of Innovation’s methodology, revolving around the concept of innovation. Innovation is the creation of improved or more efficient products, processes or services. Innovation is seen as the driver for greater competitiveness and, consequently, development. NT is explicitly proposed by some learned voices as being strategic in the quest for development leaps for underdeveloped countries. A document from the Working Group on Science, Technology and Innovation within the Millennium Project of the United Nations emphasized the capabilities of NT to improve the conditions of life for the world’s poor . Biotechnology, information and communications technologies and nanotechnologies came to be identified as priority areas for this knowledgebased economy paradigm; and the concept of innovation for competitiveness became the objective that needed to be attained. Two methodologies were suggested to that end: the National Systems of Innovation (NSI) and the selection of Priorities. The NSIs have the integration of public research (in Latin America are by and large public initiatives) with private enterprises as a core objective. The majority of the countries in Latin America created systems or agencies of innovation, and many added the word “innovation” to their institutions or even renamed their ministries.2 2
In Argentina, the body responsible for Science and Technology added the word “innovation” beginning in 1991, and in 2007 it was renamed to the “Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.” In Brazil, the Ministry of Science and Technology – created in 1985 – became known as the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation as of 2011.
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The Priorities were intended to determine certain key areas for financing, an endeavor to alleviate tensions between the development of the sciences on one side and that of the economy on the other [15, 25]. One indicator of this tension (investment in science without immediately returns vs. satisfying economic pressures of the moment) is the meagre percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) directed toward Experimental R&D in Latin America. Over the past decade, Brazil has achieved 1 % investment, which is roughly between half and one-third of the figure found among developed countries, while the majority of countries in Latin America fall below 0.5 % of GDP . However, despite the limited public budget directed toward R&D, many countries in Latin America do apply the criteria of “priority area” to direct an important part of that percentage to create centers of excellence in NT, biotechnology and others. In this way the pressure from international bodies to move toward the knowledge economy is partially addressed, at the cost of creating a huge gap in knowledge between those centers of excellence and the general conditions of public education. The push for NT development in Latin America from international bodies first came from the World Bank. From the end of the 1990s, the World Bank and other institutions created a global network of Millennium Science Initiatives (MSI). These initiatives materialized in centers of excellence in developing countries, with the aim of promoting research in S&T with the same infrastructure base and resources that exist in developed countries . The goals of the MSIs were: …to foster growth in scientific research capacities, employing and stimulating the best talent in the country, as a key factor for sustainable socioeconomic development. The Programme anticipates that the creation of Centres of Scientific Excellence will give rise to Scientific Institutes and Scientific Nuclei under a competitive and transparent process. These centres will pursue scientific research on the frontier, the training of scientists and the establishment of links with the productive sector and other institutional agreements .
additional USD $10-million from Chiles national budget . A number of NT research institutes were created through the MSIs beginning in 1999 and over the following 2 years (e.g., Technical University Federico Santa María, Andrés Bello University). Besides Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela also received MSI funding. In Brazil, four Millennium Institutes in broad areas of NT were created in 2001 (Nanosciences Institute, Institute of Complex Materials, Research Network on Systems-on-aChip, Microsystems and Nanoelectronics, and the Multidisciplinary Institute of Polymetric Materials) ; and in Mexico, another NT project was created in San Luis Potosí (IPICyT) [21, 54]. In the case of Mexico, since that country is an OECD member, that institution exerted considerable influence on S&T policy . As with the World Bank the OECD also promoted the knowledge-based economy .3 The OECD recommended a number of measures for the creation of technologically-competitive industry in Mexico, among them: the creation of one institution to control all of S&T, the formulation of a S&T policy linked to business needs, the search for external financing and the restructuring of the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT) . To achieve the S&T policy recommendations of the OECD, Mexico sought, in 1997, USD $700-million from the World Bank to finance scientific and technological research, link universities to business, restructure public research centers and improve private sector technology (World Bank, ). The OAS also is one of the international bodies that had an influence on the homogenization of S&T policy in Latin America. In various high-level conferences of the Inter-American Commission on Science and Technology (COMCyT-OAS), created in 1998, the topic of the role of S&T in development was addressed. The 2004 document Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation for Development: A vision for the Americas in the Twenty First Century summarized the institutional development of S&T, performed an analysis of the regional situation, and detailed the hemispheric cooperation project in S&T policies (Hemispheric Cooperation in the Development of Science and Technology Policy), approved in 2003. The analysis “Emerging technologies, notably information and communication technology (ICT), biotechnology, and, possibly in the future, others such as nanotechnology. These new technologies have in common a large leverage effect in that they can influence entire parts of the economy” (, p. 28).
The prototype of these MSIs was implemented in Chile. In 1999, the World Bank allotted a USD $5-million loan for the first two-and-a-half-year period, with an
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highlighted three aspects: in Latin America there existed little private-sector investment in S&T; governments contributed around 0.5 % of GDP to R&D, which was four times less than the percentage found in developed countries and up to 20 times less if measured in terms of GDP per capita; and little S&T infrastructure existed with even less communication among those working in the field. In the document, the need to put competitiveness as a central goal was identified as the key policy necessity (Science, Technology and Innovation to increase competitiveness in the productive sector) and raised a range of potential policy measures in order to implement that objective (fiscal and taxation, of financing, homogenization of measurement, development of infrastructure, strengthening of intellectual property rights, etc.). These priority themes were discussed in the seminars and, ultimately, four priority areas were selected: biotechnology, information technologies and advanced networks, nanotechnology and materials, clean technologies and renewable energies .4 The CYTED, an Ibero-American body founded in 1984 among 19 countries of Latin America, Spain and Portugal and which regularly financed research projects and Ibero-American networks, also promoted the knowledge economy paradigm. To date, the CYTED has financed dozens of networks and research projects  and in 1999 supported perhaps the first project on NT, as previously noted.5
Despite the different experiences of each country, the NT policies in Latin American must be understood within the context of the guidelines provided by international bodies. At the beginning of the first decade of this century, the majority of Latin American countries view NT as a priority area within their S&T policies. The table below shows the year in which each country incorporated NT in its public policies: A cursory chronology of the date of first official documents on scientific and technology policy in which nanotechnology was explicitly included as a priority area in Latin American and Caribbean countries Year* Country
Ministry of Science and Technology
National Council on Science and Technology
Secretary for Science and Technology
Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation
National Council for Scientific and Technological Research
National Council for Science and Technology
National Secretary of Science and Technology
National Council for Science and Technology
National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation
Secretary of State for Higher Education, Science and Technology
Ministerial Innovation Cabinet
National Secretary for Science, Technology and Innovation
The topic of NT had not appeared in the workshop resolutions prior to December, 2003; however, in the Quito meeting from December 10–12, 2003, it was introduced at the opening session by Saúl Hahn, Principal Specialist, Office of Science and Technology, Organization of American States (USA) in his presentation “Cutting-Edge Science for Development and Commons Themes of the Working Groups” [11, 47]. 5 Other international bodies also pushed the scientific policy to drive the knowledge-based economy, and to incorporate NT within S&T priorities. Such is the case of the South American Council on Education, Culture, Science, Technology and Innovation (COSECCTI), which operated within the sphere of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) . The knowledge-based economy was also advocated by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and the Economic Commission for Latin America, although the latter institution appeared more wary of the effects of these new technologies, warning of the potential downsides, as CEPAL’s Executive Secretary noted in 2009: “The new techno-economic paradigms such as ITC, biotechnology and nanotechnology drive the restructuring of old industrial branches and create new ones. This creates a dual challenge, namely, of avoiding negative effects in already-established activities and taking advantage of new windows of opportunity that open” .
* The date is only an indication of the consideration of NT as a strategic area for development, not necessarily the initiation of specific funding. Source: author’s own creation.
The prescriptions of the international bodies were not applied equally across all countries. An examination of the differences in the case of NT policies has yet to be undertaken. There are differences with regard to the assigned budgets; to the investment in equipment; to the priority given to public or private centers; to the proportion in which research funds are distributed
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among projects associated with businesses; to the degree of centralization or geographic dispersal of public financing within the country6; to the emphasis given to multi-user laboratories; to the degree of integration of funds with value chain in the country’s productive structure; and many other factors. Despite these differences, a variety of common points can be identified in the World Bank, OECD and OAS documents, such as the growing orientation toward public funds for research with business participation, the drive for the creation of centers of excellence, the completely benign and optimistic version of the impact of these new technologies on the economy and society, or the incentives for researchers who cooperate via networks.7 While some common principles exist in the prescriptions of these international bodies, there are other elements that, in their absence, also constitute a constant. The most relevant example is the lack of consideration given to the potential risks to health and environment, and the displacement of labor, due to NT development. This theme appears nowhere in the S&T policy prescriptions for Latin America of the international bodies (World Bank, OECD, OAS) through the first decade of the 21st century; and yet the countries who lead those bodies, such as the United States and the European Union, have these matters on their internal agendas. The OECD, for example, has a nanotechnology working group, and a public database on nanoparticle risks. The topic was also raised by NGOs and unions, and even the business sector recognizes those risks as an issue of some importance. Still, the fact that new technologies create not only benefits but also risks and detriments, is patently obvious for any S&T expert.8 6
30 % of the Sectorial Funds in Brazil are designated for underdeveloped regions of the North, North-East and Center-West; in Argentina the funding scheme “Priority Areas” required that the participants be organized in networks that included, at least, two research groups from the underdeveloped zones of Cuyo, NorthEast, North-West and Patagonia. 7 One example of the optimistic image conveyed by NT consultants can be seen in the topic of employment. Estimates from the National Science Foundation, LuxResearch and others dwelled on the number of jobs that NT would generate (see, e.g. ). They were not interested in estimating the potential losses of jobs due to NT industrial competition and related employment displacement. This was the primary concern of the ETC. Group in its Report for the South Centre  and other researchers [30, 56]. 8 Interestingly the discussion on nanotechnology regulation in several European Countries did not have an impact in the first decade in Latin America.
The Inclusion of Risks to Health and Environment of Nanotechnologies: The International Concern and Latin American Governmental Agendas Potential risks to health and environment in the development of NT is not a new idea. When the United States launched its National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000, it included, although with a marginal budget, a section dedicated to these risks and social impacts. In the 2000 document National Nanotechnology Initiative: The Initiative and its Implementation Plan, Chapter 13 was entitled “Societal Implications of Nanotechnology and Workforce Education and Training”. It reads: When radically new technologies are developed, social, economical, ethical, legal, environmental and workforce development issues can rise. Those issues would require specific research activities and measures to take advantage of opportunities or reduce potential risks. NNI will address these issues in a program that will establish research into ethical, social, economic, and workforce impacts of information technology …(, p. 79). Although the percentage of funding from fiscal years 2000–2001 applied to this matter was barely 5.6 % of the total, and was at the very least, motivated by strong criticisms from diverse social and analytical sectors, the concept had been present since the beginning. However, it was not included by the World Bank experts neither those of the OAS or the OECD in their S&T policies dictated to Latin America. The CORDIS agency, which is the R&D information service of the European Union, publicized various reports on the potential risks of NT since the beginning of the century; for example, in 2001 and 2002, reports were issued that – despite being the responsibility of individual authors – were commissioned by the R&D commission or by the S&T assessment groups . However, as in the case of the United States, the topic of NT risks was not included by the European advisors in the S&T policy restructuring proposal applied to Mexico by the OECD. One of the largest global insurance firms, Munich Re, issued in 2002 a report on NT, where it predicted an increase in court-determined damages from the risks
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and effects linked to these new technologies .9 Other insurers followed suit shortly thereafter . Scientific articles on the risks to health and/or environment of NT do exist, at least from the middle of the 1990s.10 And in 2004, a report came to light from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering in the United Kingdom , later widely cited, in which it clearly identifies the risks, those who are most exposure, and the avenues of exposure to nanoparticles. Many other academic documents follow a similar path. In the same year, for example, a high level expert group (HLEG) on nanotechnologies even widened the scope of research which should accompany nanotechnology R&D  But the global call for attention was not given by academia, neither by governments, nor businesses. It came from one NGO, the ETC. Group (Erosion, Technology and Concentration), that called for a moratorium on NT in 2002, at the Sustainable Development Summit in South Africa ; and 1 year later, it launched the also widely-cited and commented report The Big Down: Atomtech - Technologies Converging at the Nano-scale . The ETC. Group argued that NT research was underway, with products containing nanoparticles entering the market without any kind of regulation or assessment of risk, and called for the creation of an international body to evaluate these new technologies (See e.g. ). To summarize, governments of developed countries, the business sector, academia and NGOs were plainly aware since the first half-decade of this century that potential risks to health and environment of NT existed. It is in this context that Latin American countries chose NT as a priority area and financed research and laboratory infrastructure development, but no reference to risks was included in the policies. In Latin America, governments promote NT under S&T policies and finance their research. Although it is difficult to estimate the amount of public financing involved, some figures are cited by analysts. For Argentina, Salvarezza estimates the application of some USD $50-million between 2006 and 2010 . “new dimension in claims for personal injury, material damage, and financial loss, as well as liability risks in product, environment, and public liability” (, p. 1240). 10 (see, e.g. [42, 57, 60, 61]). Various databases exist with scientific articles that deal with the risks of NT. Among them is the International Council on Nanotechnology at Rice University, USA ; the Nanotechnology Citizen Engagement Organization , and the OECD . 9
Brazil likely invested around USD $190-million between 2004 and 2009 through the Ministry of Science and Technology (Invernizzi, Korbes, & Fuck, 2012), not counting the funds applied by individual Brazilian states: in the cases of San Pablo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro alone, more than USD $60-million were applied during that period. For Mexico, it is even more difficult to estimate; Takeuchi & Mora Ramos suggest some USD $60-million were invested between 2005 and 2010 . In Chile, the figure reached USD $30million between 2005 and 2010 . Practically none of the public financing in Latin American countries destined for NT was applied to risk studies. The only exception is a call on behalf of CNPq (Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology) in 2004, for “A Study of Ethical Aspects or Environmental Impacts of Nanotechnology and Nanobiotechnology” ; although in this case only half of the budget was released (approximately USD $35-thousand).11 This call, however, was not pursued. Therefore, during the first half-decade of the century, international bodies pushed NT as a priority area on the road toward the knowledge economy, and the governments of Latin American countries accepted the orders to begin creating infrastructure, research networks and the economic instruments in order to finance NT. But all of this was done without placing the theme of potential risks to health and environment on their agendas.12 On the part of the academia no significant voices claim for considering risks issues in the public agenda. The introduction of the National Systems of Innovation, whether as a structured methodology or partial policies, had as one of their most important features the integration of the academic and scientific sector with that of enterprises. One of the problems that the authors of S&T policies in Latin America encountered is the complete disconnection between the two sectors, as the committee of the Inter-American Commission on Science and Technology of the OAS determined in 2004. Enterprises did not invest in S&T, and therefore, rarely innovated; and scientists were not concerned with building ties that could bring their scientific advances to new processes or products. To 11
For more detail on the results of this call (see ). This did not impede the development of research projects and activities for Latin American researchers on the topic of NT risks; but these were few cases, without the topic being explicitly incorporated into S&T policies and/or were specifically funded.
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create bridges between these sectors, the NSIs implemented financial incentives, subsidies, credits and other economic measures attractive to businesses in all countries drawing them into R&D. But, at the same time, the academic and scientific sectors were significantly modified in terms of evaluation and resource allocation. Besides the publications in scientific journals and other academically-worthy activities, the scientists being evaluated according to their capacity to attract financing, to patent innovations, create spin-offs and undertake research projects in partnership with businesses. The majority of public funds calls for scientific research in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and other countries require a partnership with private business. In Argentina, nanotechnology research was specifically funded from 2004 on, out of a call of Priority Areas Program. A year later, the Science and Technology Strategic Plan 2005–2015 included NT as a priority area. In Argentina the key institution supporting scientific research is the National Agency for Promotion of Science and Technology (ANPCYT). It was created in 1996 out of a S&T restructuring process, driven by the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD). ANPCYT’s objective is technological funding for businesses, and it was launched a couple of years prior under the acronym FONTAR. At launch, it immediately created yet another fund, FONCYT, to support scientific and technological research. The latter had various modes of operation, but in all of them the funds were intended for businesses. The Science and Technology Research Projects, for example, included the “start-up” mode, or the creation of businesses with a technological basis; another mode supported the Projects of Research and Development to link the academic and scientific sectors with the productive sector. In 2009 a new program was created – FONARSEC – the Argentinian Sectorial Fund. Financed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, part of the World Bank), and oriented toward the following sectors: biotechnology, ITCs, nanotechnology, energy and agroindustry; each one with its own specific line of funding. One of these, FSNano, was launched in 2010 and requires public-private partnerships, and which must contribute at least 20 % of the total cost of the project. Since the mid-1990s, funding for R&D aimed to link scientists & private business has been growing. The largest explicitly NT-directed funding falls into this scheme [24, 58].
Brazil has offered support specifically oriented to nanotechnology since 2001, when it funded the first four nanotechnology networks. In the Multi-Year Plan 2004–2007 of the Ministry of Science and Technology, nanotechnology was already a priority area. And in 2005, it launched the National Nanotechnology Program. In the first decade of the century there was an intense transition in scientific research toward an integration of academia and business. The CNPq (National Council for the Development of Science and Technology) of the Ministry of Science and Technology was losing influence to the FINEP (Studies and Projects Fund), a public enterprise also of the Ministry of S&T with an orientation toward private business. In 1999, FINEP created the Science and Technology Sectorial Funds. Within this initiative, a mechanism existed specifically to encourage university-business ties (Fundo Verde Amarelo); furthermore, all of the funds were administered by a coordinating committee in which the business sector participated alongside the government and academia. The committee determined the directives, activities and investment plans (FINEP, n/d). FINEP has supported nanotechnology businesses since 2004, with funding programs for all of the evolutionary stages of business development, from the concept (Innovar Semente) for small businesses pre-launch, to incubators and startups (Prime), to starting enterprises (Innovar), to micro and small businesses in consolidation (Pappe Juro Cero), and also for consolidated businesses and the formation of clusters (Inova Brasil). In 2003, the Innovation Law was passed, and in 2005, the Goods Law, both of which were intended to be incentives to the subsidy of innovative businesses, and also the integration of academia and business in research projects . From this point the new nanotechnology research networks financed by the BrasilNano 2005 program had an orientation toward productive application of scientific developments and business cooperation. Another institution, the National Development Bank, created a fund in 2009 to support investments in newly-emerging nanotechnology and biotechnology businesses, and programs for business incubation. In Mexico, nanotechnology began to be seen as a strategic area in the Science and Technology plans as of 2001. But it was not until the 2007–2012 when NT was designated a priority area and began receiving dedicated funding. In 2009, the Nanoscience and
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Nanotechnology Network was funded, which included the participation of businesses as well as academia. The National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT) is the highest body of S&T direction and funding in Mexico. Its role was solidified as of 2002 when it acquired a rank equivalent to a Ministry. In Mexico, public funding for research comes from three core sources. One is CONACYT, then the Sectorial Funds supported by specific secretariats (ministries) and public institutions which also may cooperate with CONACyT, and finally the Mixed Funds, doled out at the State level. Other important funds also exist, in the form of bi-national agreements, where the collaboration between CONACyT and the European Union stands out. Most of the Sectorial Funds and the Mixed Funds require business participation. In the course of the first decade, but more clearly after 2006, CONACyT funding requires business participation along with academia.13 In 2009, for example, CONACyT directed 3,281-million pesos (approximately USD $245-million) to research funding. Of this, 25 % fell to Basic Science, which is essentially the only area that does not require business participation. The other 75 % were given to the Stimulus for Research into Technological Development and Innovation (Innovatec, Innovapyme, Proinnova), and High Value-Added in Business with Knowledge and Companies (New Businesses, the CONACYT-NAFIN Entrepreneur Fund, Technological Packages, Strategic Alliances and Innovation for Competitiveness Networks). The result of this process to incorporate businesses to the management and research processes, which occurred in most Latin American countries, was that scientists, while investing an immense part of their time to creating and administering research projects, assumed the themes, vocabulary and goals of business interests. Within this framework, the topic of nanotechnology risks is not welcome.
Measures such as tax exemptions were applied between 2002 and 2009; they were cancelled due to criticism that businesses weren’t paying taxes nor were they investigated for this. The majority of them were transnationals. “....of the 14-thousandmillion pesos that were designated… over the course of 7 years, none were actually given because the businesses didn’t pay taxes… the largest companies were the greatest beneficiaries, as they received between 75 and 80 % of the total program resources…” .
While international institutions’ policies, governments and academia basically ignored nanotechnology risks issues in Latin America, at the international level the business world, the academia, the governments of developed countries, NGOs and unions all knew perfectly well that potential risks to health and environment existed that needed to be considered.
The Inclusion of Risks to Health and Environment of Nanotechnologies on Agendas of NGOs and Unions While R&D agencies in the United States and the European Union dealt internally with the theme of NT risks, and their advisors in international institutions supporting S&T in Latin America decided to omit any consideration of those risks, unions and NGOs in Latin America took up the cause of spreading the word. The first was the Latin American Secretary of the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations), a global-scale confederation of unions with more than 12-million members. Concerned for the potential risks of NT on workers, and with the expectation that NTs would develop initially as a continuation of biotechnologies and therefore be applied in agrochemicals, the Latin American Secretary of the IUF (UITA in Spanish) launched a section of its website on the theme, elaborating brochures for distribution to union education efforts and offered an eightpoint proposal for its discussion at the 13th Latin American Congress at the end of 2006 in Santo Domingo. With the presence of 39 workers’ organizations from 14 countries and 95 delegates a resolution was passed on NT. In general terms, the declaration called for public debate, warning that products containing nanocomponents were being launched onto the market before civil society and social movements had a chance to assess their possible implications in economic, environmental and social terms, and their effect on human health. Furthermore, the declaration warned of the need to make sure that the debate on a matter that will lead to deep social changes should not be left to the “experts”. This is the first declaration issued at a continental level by a federation of trade unions. Months later, in March, 2007, the 25th Congress of the IUF was held in Geneva. UITA introduced the Santo Domingo resolution at these talks, where it was
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approved, thereby extending its impact to all 122 countries where the IUF has trade unions [22, 33]. The 25th IUF Congress meeting in Geneva, March 19–22, 2007 Resolves: 1. To mobilize our affiliated organizations and urge them to discuss with the rest of society and governments the possible consequences of NT. 2. To demand that governments and the international organizations concerned apply the Principle of Precaution, prohibiting the sale of food, beverages and fodder, and all agricultural inputs which contain nanotechnology, until it is shown that they are safe and to approve an international system of regulation specifically designed to analyze these products. 3. To demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) suspend the grant for patents related to nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until the countries affected and social movements can carry out an evaluation of their impact. 4. To demand that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) update the Codex Alimentarius, taking into account the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture. 5. To request the WHO to initiate short and long-term studies into the potential effects of nanotechnology –especially nanoparticles- on the health of the technicians and workers that produce them, users and consumers. 6. To request the International Labour Organization (ILO) to carry out an urgent study into the possible impact of nanotechnology on conditions of work and employment in agriculture and the food industry. Following completion of the study, a Tripartite Conference on the subject must be convened as soon as possible. Submitted by the 13th Conference of Rel-UITA. Source: IUF Resolution. http://www.iufdocuments.org/rc2007/en/ RC03%20Draft%20resolutions.pdf
The IUF’s Latin American (2006) and global (2007) declarations were followed by the launch of the “Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials” (2007), a global declaration signed by dozens of NGOs and unions from all over the world, and signed as well by the Latin American Secretariat of the IUF and various Latin American NGOs . It was later followed by the declaration of the European Trade Union Confederation on NT . The Latin American Network on Nanotechnology and Society (ReLANS), with shared coordination between Mexico and Brazil, was formed in 2006. Since that time it has maintained a webpage with a section dedicated to “NT and workers”. ReLANS has published two books on NT in Latin America (2008 and 2012) in which its members have written articles about different countries. The
theme of risks has been taken up in the compilation “Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture”; and later, in the brochure “Social and Environmental Implications of the Development of Nanotechnologies in Latin America and the Caribbean”, which is a joint project with IPEN (International POPs Elimination Network).14 Brazil is, perhaps, the country in which the work of unions, academic networks and NGOs has been most active in dealing with the potential impacts of NT on health and the environment, as well as the implications on employment. In other countries, such as Argentina and Uruguay, union activities on this issue have been sporadic. It is no surprise that Brazil’s example is different, given its status as the country with the most advanced R&D in NT according to S&T indicators, and also due to the presence of a greater number of businesses researching and/or producing NT than in all of Latin America , followed by Mexico and then Argentina [34, 48, 52]. In Brazil, the key union confederations have expressed their concern for the risks of NT. CONTAC (National Confederation of Agriculture Workers), Força Sindical and other unions, such as metalworkers, chemical workers, pharmaceutical workers, have all come out on the matter in different ways. Some of these union umbrella organizations or their affiliated unions have held seminars and created informational materials on NT.15 The unions have two institutions that have incorporated into their work the monitoring and analysis of the effects of NT on health, the environment and employment. DIEESE is the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies, while DIESAT is the Inter-Union Department of Work, Environment and Health Research and Studies.16 Fundacentro is an institution linked to the Ministry of Work in Brazil, dedicated to the study of security and health risks in the workplace. The leadership is tri-party (government, union, business organizations). Besides collaborating with the World Health Organization, Fundacentro also has links to the International Labor Organization. With regard to NT, it has organized 14
ReLANS activities and publications can be reviewed at http:// www.relans.org 15 CONTAC, for example, held a seminar on “New Technologies and Globalization” in 2010, in Rio Grande do Sol, that brought together dozens of union representatives and federations of unions to discuss NT. 16 DIEESE authored the technical brochure “Nanotechnology: Knowledge to Confront the Challenges” (2008).
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seminars, congresses and produced material on union training.17 Renanosoma (Network on Nanotechnology, Society and Environment) is an academic network formed in 2004, linking researchers in the social sciences. It has organized more than seven national and international conferences. The first, “Nanotechnology, Society and Environment”, was held in 2004 and repeated annually since. It has published seven books and co-organized various events with Fundacentro, IIEP and other institutions. This network was supported by the call for project competitions of the CNPq in 2004 (see below) and in 2005 (Edital MCT/CNPq. 12/2006), but later came to be marginalized in public finances . Since 2009, it has delivered a program online (“Nanotechnology in Reverse”) that has thus far released more than 160 videos.18 19 Starting the second decade of the century, leading the way in the incorporation of the theme of risks within S&T policies in Latin America is Brazil. The CNPq launched a public competition in 2011 for projects relating to nanotoxicology, in which six research projects were approved . In the same year, the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI), a body linked to the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, released what would be the first report on the risks of NT (Nanotecnologias: subsídios para a problemática dos riscos e regulação) in Brazil.20 In Mexico, the Autonomous University of Nuevo León began to build, in 2012, a Biotechnology and Nanotoxicology Research Center. It is interesting to note that this apparent time gap between the positions of the NGOs and unions on the Some examples of Fundacentro’s activities include: “First International Seminar on Nanotechnology and its Workers” (2006); the seminar “Nanotechnology, Workers’ Health, Food and Social and Environmental Impacts” (2007); “International Seminar on Nanotechnology, Agricultural Commodities and Minerals” (2007); the research project “Nanotechnology Impacts on Worker’s Health and the Environment”; briefing paper “Texto em quadrinhos” (a comic book-format publication); “International Symposium on the Impacts of Nanotechnologies on Worker’s Health and Environment” (2010). Most of these activities were developed in collaboration with RENANOSOMA, IIEP, DIESSE, and/or FIOCRUZ. 18 The activities of RENANOSOMA can be reviewed at http:// www.nanotecnologiadoavesso.org 19 There are NGOs that have also taken action on NT. Among them is IIEP, an NGO concerned with labor matters that co-organized seminars with FUNDACENTRO and RENANOSOMO and has published a variety of educational materials on the subject. 20 There are groups researching nanotoxicology in Mexico. CINVESTAV, for example, has a research stream in this area. 17
one hand, and on the other, international bodies promoting S&T, and Ministries of Science and Technology throughout Latin America, also were influenced by the way in which they incorporated social participation in S&T policies. The OAS, for example, deems it necessary to have public participation in policy elaboration – and the same criteria could be extended to all similar institutions. In the 2004 document, “A vision for the Americas”, produced by the Office of Education, Science and Technology of the OAS, it reads: All the countries in the Hemisphere should generate national strategies and policies to develop science and technology adapted to their needs and linked to their main projects. It is essential to make this policy a national consensus agreed by all the major actors: governments, scientists, the private sector, and the general public . This means that there should be a policy consensus among the “general public”. But the general public can not be more than the sum of its individual parts, without a tradition of organization or any way to participate. In the worst case, public participation is reduced to passively receiving official information on S&T by way of museums, TV programs, etc.; and in the best case, through engagement in public forums or via the Internet. In none of the cases is there relevant input into the modification of S&T policies. Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology, at the end of 2003 and over the course of a week, held public consultations on NT among scientists and reporters specialized in matters of science, via the Internet. This effort only resulted in 65 submissions . The Nanotechnology Competitiveness Forum was also created in 2009, one of several forums that first began to appear in 2000 to align sectorial policies to development plans . Although the business sector, unions, academia and government theoretically participated in the Competitiveness Forums, there were no worker representatives in the 6 plenary meetings or the working groups between 2009 and 2010 (MDIC, n/d). Similar is the case of Uruguay, where the Nanotechnology Council allows trade unions representatives, but up to date no attendance from this sector was registered  In Mexico, the Scientific and Technologic Consultation Forum has operated since 2002. This is an autonomous body that provides the government with the opinions of the scientific community and the productive sector, in the
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effort to find consensus on S&T research policies. Only scientists and businesspeople participate in the forum. The governing board is represented by academics, businesspeople, and researchers from the National System of Researchers. The model of this forum is reproduced in each state within Mexico, and in many cases the participation is even broader, but when one speaks of the “general public” beyond academics and businesspeople, it must be remembered that there exists neither tradition nor organizational history, and their opinion is that of individuals with no greater meaning.21 NGOs and unions have, in contrast, organization, a history of participation, and are therefore organic actors that are able to generate independent opinion, as the first decade of NT history in this century has shown. These groups rarely participate at the level of decision-making bodies.
where the business sector carries weight on the committees managing policy and funding – the potential risks to health and the environment are omitted from NT policy guidelines, as are the effects upon employment. This may appear surprising, since it is more than obvious that new technologies imply risks. Scientists and academics were for the most part accomplices in this omission, in great measure due to the straightjacket of research projects shared with the business sector, which is a requirement for access to sources of funding.22 This straightjacket requires as well the use of language attractive to business, and far from any idea of risk or insecurity. The NGOs and unions, in the absence of governmental responsibility, were those who called attention to the issue of potential risks of NT. Since workers and consumers are the ones exposed to NT risks, the official policy, while omitting the risk topic, distances itself from these two social sectors.
Conclusions Nanotechnologies in Latin America would have been developed even without policies to promote them. But the changes in S&T policies in Latin America since the end of the 1990s and during the following decade, which is when NT came to be designated a “strategic area” or “priority area”, affected the way in which they were developed. The knowledge-based economy paradigm and the orientation of S&T toward increasing international competitiveness were the theoretical frameworks that justified the designation of NT as a priority area, even in small countries where the level of laboratory infrastructure and critical mass of scientists is diminished by large capital investments in scientifictechnical areas such as NT. International institutions such as the World Bank and OAS were key in delivering funding and strategic guidelines of scientific policy. Various common characteristics can be identified in the promotion of NT, such as incentives to form research networks, the creation of centers of excellence and the academia-business integration in research. In all cases examined, and according to the objective that we could call “NT for competitiveness” – 21
Grupo Vincula (Linkage Group) was created in Mexico in 2009 to foster a stronger business presence in the decisions on S&T. Participants included the FCCyT, government agencies and all of the business and industry chambers, sponsoring confederations and business associations.
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