"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.)