The Council invited a range of experts to a workshop in London on 25th November 2009 to discuss the ethical issues raised by the emergence of new technologies, such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

Policy-makers are faced with the challenge of allowing potentially controversial technologies to develop safely and in a controlled way, while at the same time exercising precaution. Consumers also influence the successful introduction of new technologies, and the way that risk and uncertainty are communicated by scientists and policy makers through the media can have a significant effect on whether new technologies are accepted by the public.

The participants had a lively and insightful discussion around a number of issues, including:
  • the emerging social and ethical issues, such as biosafety and the difficulty in attempting to define ‘life’ in the case of synthetic biology;

  • media coverage of the emergence of new technologies;

  • how scientists and policy makers interact;

  • the regulation of new technologies; and

  • public acceptance of new technologies.

In view of this discussion, the Council will now consider whether to take forward work in this area.

Read more about the Council's future work.