Loud Starts End France's Nanotech Debates

"Good evening, everybody." That's all Jean Bergougnoux, chair of the panel in charge of France's national debate on nanotechnology, got to say last night at a meeting in Lyon. Immediately after his opening words, some 100 people started clapping, shouting, whistling, and unfurling banners, despite Bergougnoux's protests that the protesters were "antidemocratic." A chaotic hour later, the event was canceled. The same thing had happened at a similar debate in Grenoble in December; at another one in Rennes last week, the audience was forced to leave and the discussion was webcast.

France's Special Commission for the Public Debate on Nanotechnology is organizing a 4-month discussion in 17 cities to inform the public about advances and dilemmas in nanotechnology and to give citizens a chance to express their opinion. But environmentalists dispute the legitimacy of the discussions, which they say are one-sided and a whitewash, and have decided to disrupt them wherever they can. The commission has five more debates scheduled through 23 February, the next one in Marseille on Tuesday. (Hat tip: Sylvestre Huet.)