Senator forming caucus to keep nanotech issues on forefront

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WASHINGTON, April 8, 2004 — Sen. George Allen, R-Va.,  is organizing a new congressional caucus aimed at promoting nanotechnology and helping to educate other lawmakers and their constituents about the new and emerging industry.

The “caucus will serve as a forum to keep nanotechnology issues before members of Congress and I would encourage your participation,” Allen said last week in announcing the caucus during prepared remarks at a National Nanotechnology Initiative conference in Washington. “This caucus will serve as your industry’s portal to the United States Congress.”

Allen will spend the next few weeks organizing the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus and talking to members who may be interested in joining, according to Allen spokesman John Reid. He said the goal of the caucus is to provide those who may have issues or concerns about nanotechnology with a direct route into Congress.

Allen is likely to formally launch the caucus in the next few weeks. “He’s in the process of fleshing it out,” Reid said.

Supporters of the caucus say they hope it will operate along the lines of the Congressional Internet Caucus, which holds periodic luncheons on Capitol Hill and other events for congressional staff and others to brief them on various tech-related topics.

“We would love to see it that well-developed. It’s something I hope we’ll be able to approximate,” said Paul Stimers, a Washington lobbyist for the NanoBusiness Alliance and a lawyer with the Washington office of the law firm Preston, Gates & Ellis. “I think the nanotech caucus is an excellent opportunity for people interested in this entirely new field to get to know what’s going on.”

Among those who have already expressed interest is Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sponsor of the nanotech legislation enacted into law late last year. Allen was the chief co-sponsor of the legislation. Wyden said during a speech Friday at the nanotech conference that lawmakers should refrain from imposing new regulations over nanotechnology.

Pointing to a controversial recent study that found that fish exposed to nanoparticles suffered brain damage, he said lawmakers should let scientists proceed with further research before rushing to regulate this new industry. He said one of the reasons he pushed for the creation of a nanotech preparedness center in the nanotech bill passed last year was so researchers could study the possible environmental, health and societal effects of nanotechnology.

“The government should tread lightly as it relates to new regulations,” Wyden said.

Wyden and other lawmakers made a similar argument a few years ago when it came to imposing new regulations on the Internet.


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