France: France Might Take The Lead On Nanotechology Regulation

Last Updated: 12 March 2009

Article by Kiran S. Desai, Dr. Anna Gergely and Sébastien F. Louvion

Originally published March 9, 2009

Keywords: France, nanotechnology, nanoparticle substances, Grenelle project, nanomaterials

The French government has proposed legislation which if enacted would, for the first time in the EU, start to regulate the manufacture, import or marketing of nanoparticle substances.  If this proposed legislation is adopted, this will create many challenges for corporations, regulators and the French government, as well as potentially raise questions of compatability of the legislation with EU law.

The French Proposals form part of a very broad environment project referred to as the Grenelle project, which was launched in 2007.  The project splits into two proposed laws, Grenelle 1 and 2.  Grenelle 1 has completed its first reading and is currently before the National Assembly for its second reading.  It is intended to establish the general principles, whilst Grenelle 2 is intended to provide details.

Article 37 of Grenelle 1 currently includes the following principle:

"L'État se donne pour objectif que, dans un délai de deux ans qui suit la promulgation de la présente loi, la fabrication, l'importation ou la mise sur le marché de substances à l'état nanoparticulaire ou d'organismes contenant des nanoparticules ou issues de nanotechnologies fasse l'objet d'une déclaration obligatoire, relative notamment aux quantités et aux usages, à l'autorité administrative ainsi qu'une information du public et des consommateurs."

"The State sets itself the goal that, within two years after the law is adopted, the manufacture, importation, or marketing of nanoparticle substances or organisms containing nanoparticles or the product of nanotechnology will become the object of obligatory declaration, notably on quantities and uses, to the administrative authority as well as information to the public and to consumers."

Grenelle 2 was on 12 January 2009 proposed by France's minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Territorial Development, Mr. Jean-Louis Borloo to the National Assembly, so it is still very early in the legislative process.  However, the details of the proposal on nanotechnology are informative.  They are contained in Article 73:

  • An amendment to the French "Environmental Code", by inserting a new Chapter III :  "Prevention of health and environmental risks due to exposure to "nanoparticle substances" which includes the requirements that:
    • Any person that manufactures, imports or places on the market nanoparticle substances (including for the purpose of research), must periodically declare to the administrative authority the identity, quantities and uses of the substances.
    • Information related to the identity and uses of these nanoparticle substances shall be publicly available under conditions to be established under the law.
    • Any person that manufactures, imports or places on the market any nanoparticle substances are required, at the request of the administrative authority, to transmit all available information relating to the hazards related to these substances as well as the likely exposure to these substances.
  • Amendments are also proposed to the French "Public Health Code" and the "Rural Code" to the effect that the rules contained in the Environmental Code relating to nanoparticle substances also apply to the use of such substances as components in medicinal products for human or veterinary use and cosmetics covered by the Public Health Code, and as components in phytopharmaceutical products (preparations and products containing genetically modified organisms for use on plants) covered by the Rural Code.

The French proposals do not occur in a vacuum.  On 19 January 2009 the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety issued a draft Report on the regulatory aspects of nanomaterials.  In the EP Report is a call for an EP Resolution on regulatory aspects of nanomaterials, including the following:

  • Calls on the Commission to propose reviews of all relevant legislation by the end of 2009 to fully implement the principle "no data, no market" for all applications of nanomaterials in consumer products or in products leading to discharges to the environment.
  • Reiterated call for labeling of consumer products containing nanomaterials.
  • Calls for the urgent development of adequate testing protocols to assess the hazard of, and exposure to, nanomaterials over their entire life cycle, using a multi-disciplinary approach.

The same day, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks adopted its opinion on "Risks Assessment of Products of Nanotechnologies."  The final paragraph of the executive summary states:

"The health and environmental hazards were demonstrated for a variety of manufactured nanomaterials. The identified hazards indicate potential toxic effects of nanomaterials for man and environment. However, it should be noted that not all nanomaterials induce toxic effects. Arguably, some manufactured nanomaterials have been in use for a long time (carbon black, TiO2) and show low toxicity. The hypothesis that smaller means more reactive and thus more toxic cannot be substantiated by the published data. In this respect nanomaterials are similar to normal substances in that some may be toxic and some may not. As there is not yet a generally applicable paradigm for nanomaterial hazard identification, a case by case approach for the risk assessment of nanomaterials is recommended."

It is notable that part of the stated policy reasoning behind both the French Proposals and the EP's Opinion is the so-called precautionary principle, which is expressly contained in Article 174 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community.  The precautionary principle is of fundamental importance to policy and legislation in the EU.  However, so is the creation and proper functioning of the common market (Articles 23 et seq.).  Member State laws which hinder the proper functioning of the common market are in breach of EU law.  Weighing one fundamental (the precautionary principle) against another (the common market) is a difficult exercise and the European Court of Justice has ruled against Member States in several cases where stated public health measures, which are detrimental to the common market, have been found not to be objectively justified.  It is too early to tell whether the French Proposals would withstand scrutiny for compliance with EU law, because the bill is still being debated, but this potential scrutiny will have to be taken into consideration by French legislators.

Learn more about Mayer Brown's Government Relations and Global Trade practices.

Visit us at

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization comprising legal practices that are separate entities ("Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP, a limited liability partnership established in the United States; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales; and JSM, a Hong Kong partnership, and its associated entities in Asia. The Mayer Brown Practices are known as Mayer Brown JSM in Asia.

This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.

Copyright 2009. Mayer Brown LLP, Mayer Brown International LLP, and/or JSM. All rights reserved.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.