As yet another sign of potential backlash against nascent nanotechnology, Greenpeace has issued a report concluding that the technology is developing faster than relevant social policy and that extensive environmental research on it needs to be conducted.

The report, carried out for the Greenpeace Environmental Trust by Imperial College London, explores such notions as the idea that nanoscale particles constitute a new class of non-biodegradable pollutant that scientists don’t really understand.

The report asserts that nanotechnology is moving much too fast for social implications to be addressed, and recommends an in-depth analysis of environmental concerns be conducted.

Additionally addressing artificial intelligence and robotics, the report concludes with a call for balance concerning the perceived usefulness of new technology products versus associated risks.

Besides the potential impact of quantum dots, nanoparticles and throwaway nanodevices, the Greenpeace report examines concerns that nanomaterials could bind to harmful substances such as pesticides or PCBs, leading to the worry of such materials infiltrating humans.

The report leaves virtually no nano possibility unaddressed, including the concept of self-replication. Runaway self-replicating nanorobots capable of functioning autonomously, it notes, could transform objects in our environment into replicas of themselves, a scenario referred to as the “gray goo” problem.

The report also addresses the potential misuse of nanotechnology to create such things as fourth generation nuclear weapons.

More here.