Friends of the Earth recently posted "Out of the Laboratory and on to Our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture" their website. The report is the product of a committee, something which is obvious not just from the 13 contributors who are identified, but also from the swings in tone throughtout the report, ranging from calm
Until we have a much more comprehensive understanding of the biological behaviour of nanomaterials, it is impossible to predict the toxcity rises associateds with any material, and each new nanomaterial must be subject to new health and safety assessment prior to its commercial use (pp.5-6)
to the downright paranoid:
. . . nano-sensors could be used to gather more sensitive information about individuals, for example genetic make up, health or disease profiles (p.34)
While this report begins with a focus on the use of nanomaterials in agriculture, food processing, preservation, etc, it very quickly shifts to a discussion of nanotechnology being used to create artificial life:
Nanobiotechnology now appears to offer a new suite of tools to manipulate the genes of plants or animals
In a chapter titled "Time to choose sustainable food and farming", all possible objectivity fallas away and nanotechnology and nanomaterials are accused of :
Loss of biological diversity:
. . . nanotechnology entrenches and expands the industrial scale model of monoculture agriculture which has resulted in rapid loss of agricultural and biological diversity over the last century.
Nanotechnology . . . appears likely to entrench our dependence on a chemical-intensive system. (pp. 32-33)
Creating agricultural monopolies:
By underpinning the next wave of technological transformation of the global agriculture and food industry, nanotechnology appears likely to further expand the market share of major agrochemical companies, food processors and food retailers. (p. 33)
Increasing farm labour unemployment and population shifts:
Nanotechnology . . . could dramatically accelerate existing trends towards large-scale, high-technology agricultural production requiring almost no on-farm labour .
. . . this could also result in the further decline of rural communities. (p. 33)
And finally, loss of knowledge:
Nanofoods . . . could also have negative social consequences by eroding our understanding of how to eat well and agricultural knowledge . . . developed over thousands of years.
. . . with the increasing use of nanotechnology to alter the nutritional properties of processed foods, we could soon be left with no capacity to understand the health values of foods . . . . (p.34)
The above are all in addition to nanobiotechnology and nanomaterials being responsible for the increased loss of privacy. In other sections of this report, its implied that nanoparticles are the cause of increases in reports of Crohns Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and a variety of other illnesses and syndromes which all happened to be diagnosed and described long before the advent of manufactured nanomaterials or nanoparticles.
In the end, this study recommends abandoning the large "industrial" farm model and returning to small, local farms using organic farming methods, which one presumes will lead to the establishment of an earthly paradise.
Its disappointing to read studies like this, which do raise relevant questions and criticisms – the FDA and the EU come in for legitimate criticism for a lack of regulations on the use of nanomaterials in food processing and preservation – and the appendix ‘Summary of EU Regulations Applicable to the Use of Nanotechnology in the Food Sector" is very useful. But such studies demolish their own creditbility by advocating particular social, environmental economic and political agendas.