The nano debate was led by the Commission of Public Debates (CPDP) and opened with a session in Strasbourg on 15 October 2009.
Seventeen public sessions were planned in a number of French towns with the idea of investigating the use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials in a number of domains including the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and military industries.
However, a number of the meetings were disturbed by protestors who whistled and shouted loudly in an attempt to stop others from participating.
In Lyon the debate was moved from the original room, and those wishing to continue participating were asked to do so via the internet.
In Marseille, protestors who had, according to the organisation, been active in the boycott of the Lyon meeting, were told they were not allowed to enter the room where the debate was to be held. This led others inside the venue to question the ‘public nature’ of a debate where attendance was limited.
Orsay’s session on 26 January was closed to the public and transmitted live over the internet as the original room had been vandalised.
According to reports in the French press, Grenoble-based group PMO (Pièces et Main d’Oeuvre) was responsible for a number of the disturbances as it believed the debate to be public only in name, claiming all the important decisions had already been made.
In addition, the group argued against the attempts of the programme to concentrate on specific uses and industries and their related human and environmental effects. PMO said the problem was a political one and determined to fight against the ‘technological tyranny’.
Cosmetics and consumer protection
Orléan’s session focusing on cosmetics and the protection of the consumer was one of the earlier meetings in the programme (27 October 2009) and appeared to come to a close without such disturbances.
President of the French cosmetology society Mr Redziniak presented the cosmetics sector’s use of nanotechnology including the use of nano titanium dioxide in sun care products.
“The sun is significantly more dangerous than nanoparticles,” he said during the meeting. The discussion also covered the labelling of nanoparticles in products and whether current toxicological measures were adapted to substances in the nano form.
Notes and conclusions resulting from France’s public debate on nanotechnology will be published within the next few months. More information on the debate can be found here.