Food Production Using Nanotechnologies - Recommendations for Regulation by Environmentalist Groups

Topics Covered

Background

What Environmentalists Are Saying About Using Nanoparticles in Food and Drink Products

Governments Should Establish a Moratorium on the Development of Synthetic Biology - Says the ETC Group

A Co-Ordinated Strategy to Monitor Nano-Foods is Required at International Level - Says the ETC Group

What the United Nations (UN) Agencies Could Be Doing to Monitor Developments in the Nano-Food Sector

Background

By allowing nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight, governments, agribusiness and scientific institutions have already jeopardised the potential benefits of nano-scale technologies. First and foremost, society - including farmers, civil society organisations and social movements - must engage in a wide debate about nanotechnology and its multiple economic, health and environmental implications.

What Environmentalists Are Saying About Using Nanoparticles in Food and Drink Products

In keeping with the Precautionary Principle, all food, feed and beverage products (including nutritional supplements) that incorporate manufactured nanoparticles should be removed from the shelves and new ones prohibited from commercialisation until such time as laboratory protocols and regulatory regimes are in place that take into account the special characteristics of these materials, and until they are shown to be safe. Similarly, nano-scale formulations of agricultural input products such as pesticides, fertilisers and soil treatments should be prohibited from environmental release until a new regulatory regime specifically designed to examine these products finds them safe.

Governments Should Establish a Moratorium on the Development of Synthetic Biology - Says the ETC Group

Governments must also move immediately to establish a moratorium on lab experimentation with - and the release of - “synthetic biology” materials until society can engage in a thorough analysis of the health, environmental and socio-economic implications. Any efforts by governments or industry to confine discussions to meetings of experts or to focus debate solely on the health and safety aspects of nano-scale technologies will be a mistake. The broader social and ethical issues must also be addressed. 

A Co-Ordinated Strategy to Monitor Nano-Foods is Required at International Level - Says the ETC Group

At the intergovernmental level, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) standing committees and commissions on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and genetic resources should be monitoring and debating the new technologies - with active input and feedback from peasant and small farmers’ organisations. FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems should immediately begin to examine the socio-economic implications for farmers, food safety and national governments. The UN/FAO Committee on World Food Security should be discussing the implications for agro-terrorism as well as food sovereignty. Additionally, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity should review nanobiotech’s potential impact, especially on bio-safety.

What the United Nations (UN) Agencies Could Be Doing to Monitor Developments in the Nano-Food Sector

Other UN agencies such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and International Labour Organization (ILO) should join with FAO to examine the impact of nanotech on the ownership and control of the world’s food supply, commodities and labour. The international community should establish a body dedicated to tracking, evaluating and monitoring new technologies and their products through an International Convention for the Evaluation of New Technologies (ICENT).                

Source: ‘Down on the Farm: the Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture’, ETC Group Report, November 2004.

For more information on this source please visit the ETC Group.

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