Nanotechnology in Food (again)

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.


Comments 3

  1. Ruth Seeley

    Am working on a media release that touches on precisely the subject of your last colourful para (note to self: do not read Tim’s blog before breakfast, nausea may ensue).

    Oddly it seems to be precisely the same folks who insist nothing but organic food should be eaten and bottled water be drunk who are also the most active in the protest against disparities between quality of life in the developed vs non-developed world. There is some fundamental disconnect going on there. And why, I ask myself, on a daily basis, has the organic food movement never been challenged on the issue of ground water contamination – because unless you’re growing entirely hydroponically or in a greenhouse and watering with distilled water, you are not coming anywhere near close to eliminating all sources of contamination.

    1. Post
      Author
      Tim

      It is odd isn’t it? I’ve been in meetings where the agenda has been to ban the use of various technologies in the knowledge that it will cause death. Starving people to death or dropping bombs on them to score a political point both seem morally reprehensible to me.

  2. Pingback: Nanotech - the Sucessor to GMO’s? | TNTlog

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