"Member states should apply the precautionary principle in order to protect not only researchers, who will be the first to be in contact with nano-objects, but also professionals, consumers, citizens and the environment in the course of N&N research activities," states the Commission code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) research, adopted on 7 February 2008.
The Commission recommends that member states follow the general principles and guidelines for actions outlined in the code "as they formulate, adopt and implement their strategies for developing sustainable nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N)".
Member states are also asked to encourage the voluntary adoption of the code by relevant national authorities, research funding bodies and researchers. They are also expected to use the document to promote dialogue at all governance levels to increase understanding and involvement by the general public in the development of new technologies.
The code of conduct recommends that all N&N research activities be conducted in respect of a set of seven principles. According to these, all activities should:
- Respect fundamental rights and be conducted in the interest of the well-being of individuals and society;
- be safe for people and the environment;
- be ethical and contribute to sustainable development;
- be conducted in accordance with the precautionary principle;
- be guided by the principles of openness to all stakeholders, transparency and respect for the legitimate right of access to information;
- meet the best scientific standards, including integrity of research and good laboratory practices, and;
- encourage maximum creativity and flexibility for innovation and growth.
In addition, the code suggests that "researchers and research organisations should remain accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts of their work".
Stakeholder adoption of the code will be monitored annually. The code will be reviewed every two years "to take into account developments in N&N worldwide and their integration into European society".
The code is a regulation and thus not legally binding. Therefore, member states can decide to grant a wider or narrower measure of protection regarding nanotech research than recommended in the code.