, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 149–162 | Cite as

Ethics of Risk Analysis and Regulatory Review: From Bio- to Nanotechnology

  • Jennifer KuzmaEmail author
  • John C. Besley
Original Paper


Risk analysis and regulatory systems are usually evaluated according to utilitarian frameworks, as they are viewed to operate “objectively” by considering the health, environmental, and economic impacts of technological applications. Yet, the estimation of impacts during risk analysis and the decisions in regulatory review are affected by value choices of actors and stakeholders; attention to principles such as autonomy, justice, and integrity; and power relationships. In this article, case studies of biotechnology are used to illustrate how non-utilitarian principles are prominent in risk analysis and regulatory review and to argue that these relationships should be carefully considered as we consider nanotechnology oversight systems for its products. We argue that there are not distinct separations between “science-based” review systems, in which evaluations of the consequences of technological products are primarily considered, and principles of integrity, justice, non-maleficence, and autonomy. It should further be expected that, given research into fair treatment during decision-making processes, attention to ethics will affect how citizens assess emerging technologies. Finally, a more holistic approach for evaluating oversight systems for the products of nanotechnology is suggested, one which does not draw a sharp distinction between risk analysis, regulation, and respect for non-utilitarian values.


Agricultural biotechnology Risk Regulation Nanotechnology 



This work was in part supported by National Science Foundation NIRT grant SES-0608791 (Wolf, Kokkoli, Kuzma, Paradise, Ramachandran, co-PIs). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy, Humphrey Institute of Public AffairsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationsUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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