The House of Lords Science & technology committee (or more accurately a sub committee) has started to investigate the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector and is calling for evidence.There’s plenty of it here.
Certainly if our experience of running a few Nanofood confernces and producing a number of reports on the subject is typical, the committee could find it hard to gather firm evidence. Richard Jones gave a nice overview of the difficulties of even defiing the subject last year, but the marriage of nanotechnology and food is such an emotive and sensitive issue that it is hard to get anyone from major food company to stick their neck above the parapet.
My colleague Dexter Johnson who was the organiser of most of our food events has a few words to say on the subject, and I have to say I agree 100%. What the world needs is a joined up and sustainable food policy that makes the best, and most appropriate use of the technologies at our disposal, whether replacing horses with tractors or pesticides with GMOs. Many of the hard line groups advocating veganism or organic agriculture are in societies where that is an affordable lifestyle choice, whereas to most of the world food is just food – when it is available.
Banning a particular subsection of food, whether nanotechnology, chemistry (artificial fertilizers for instance) or physics (mechanised agriculture) is a pretty silly thing to do. However, it does work as a campaigning tactic as we have seen in the past. As most of the population is scientifically illiterate, it is very easy to make a convincing arguments by adding two bits of plausible science together and then coming to an implausible conclusion.
If some people want to live in a field eating a diet of grass and weeds fertilized by their own poo then they are quite at liberty to do so (although not in my garden!), and if the use of nanomaterials in packaging is shown to be safe then that is also fine. But just because we are wealthy enough to have a choice doesn’t mean that choice should be denied to the rest of the world – that is just selfish.