The “International Risk Governance Council,” a Geneva based organisation “whose purpose is to help the understanding and management of global risks that impact on human health and safety, the environment, the economy and society at large” sent me their latest deep thoughts on Risk Governance of Nanotechnology Applications in Food and Cosmetics today, and it proved a rather interesting read.
Anyone following the various debates about the safety of nanotechnologies will be aware that since the seminal Royal Society report in 2004, all other reports have concluded that we either don’t know enough about the science/toxicology/applications/exposure routes yet to make an informed decision, or said to hell with rational science called for an outright ban on the use of nanotechnologies in food/water/industry/fun.
I took a look at the IRGC report and blow me if it wasn’t just as vapid and inconclusive as all the rest.I passed it to one of my colleagues in case I’d missed something and she commented “the report says the same as all the other “risk” reports since the first royal society one. Seems like there is nothing else to say!”
What is particularly staggering is that in an area as important as health and safety no one seems able to commission any real research, and most of the information in the report seems to have come from a couple of weeks of googling, with the consequent lack of gravitas associated with any publication that merely collates other public domain data. Rather than actually doing any work, the IRGC report simply makes comments along the lines of “In the absence of reliable data, the Nanowerk internet portal provides an overview of current or future fields of applications in agriculture, food processing, food packaging and food supplements. Now Nanowerk is an excellent content aggregator, but it’s hardly Nature now is it? The next thing you know we’ll have people quoting TNTlog as an authoritative source!
Anyway to spare you wading through 42 pages of summarising what has already been summarised by other people let’s cut straight to the conclusion:
The food and cosmetics “industries should make a concerted effort to reflect on critical comments and use them constructively, as an incentive to assure the responsible production and use of nanomaterials.
Is that it?
According to the IRGC, the final recommendations will be published in an IRGC Policy Brief in spring 2009, we can hardly wait, and we hope they come up with a bit more insight in the meantime.