Experts warn of a new threat to our food supplies
Experts warn of
a new threat
to our food supplies
Nathan Batalion, Global Health Activist, Healingtalks Editor
(Healingtalks) The use of engineered nano-materials in foods should be openly debated or otherwise we risk the same fate as what we have with genetically modified (GM) foods, according to a leading group of UK experts.
Call for public debate
Speaking at an open workshop, experts from industry and academia put forward their views. stated that told FoodNavigator.com the workshop brought to light a number of interesting issues with regard to consumer responses and “If there is no communication, we’re left with a vacuum. And if there is a vacuum, then that is open for other voices to fill that vacuum,” warned Chesson.
Professor Clare Mills, of Manchester University, UK – also a member of the ACNFP committee – echoed that:
“Consumers have a responsibility to educate themselves and to understand the issues … but also we must communicate the science and safety assessments of these technologies with them effectively,” she said.
Leading the group discussion on ways to create a more open debate, Professor Andrew Chesson, a member of the UK Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), argued there needs to be greater openness from manufacturers or food processors:
“If food companies don’t share what they are doing, and keep it all behind closed doors, then that starts rumor mill going. And because of that we will get those who are not as familiar with the science putting out scare stories.”
Maybe we actually need scare stories
On the other hand because nanotechnology takes mechanical science to a far deeper level than GMOs (which have been proven to generate serious health and environmental hazards). We ought to consider scare stories because the potential harm may be astronomical – and we should know that before charging forward like a bull in a china closet.
The need is yet greater because of the explosion of applications to our food supply – to extend food shelf life, improve tastes, textures, and nutrition, as well as todetect bacterial contamination.
Extent of food applications
- Toddler Health is a nutritional supplement containing nano iron particles claims to offer toddlers increased bioavailability.
- Canola Active cooking oil contains NutraLease, a nutraceutical technology that uses nano-capsules to enhance the delivery of nutrients.
- A preservative known as AquaNova contains nano capsules of water insoluble substances to increase absorption in the body.
- McDonald’s burger packages contain nano-spheres that require less water and less time and energy to dry.
- Miller Beer bottles are made from Imperm, a plastic imbued with clay nanoparticles that are as hard as glass but stronger and provide longer shelf life.
Major food companies, like General Mills, Kraft, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Cadbury-Schweppes, and Unilever, are developing nano food and food packaging applications. They expect to generate a $6 billion market for such packaging materials by 2010.
- Syngenta has developed a plant growth treatment, PrimoMaxx nano emulsion.
- Cornell scientists developed a cloth with saturated nano fibers that slowly release pesticides and herbicides when it is planted with seeds.
- Other agricultural giants conducting nanotechnology research include Dupont, BASF, and Cargill, but, surprisingly, not Monsanto.
Like genetically modified foods, nanotechnology poses huge risks to human health and the environment.
Nanopaticles are more chemically reactive. They are so small, they have greater access to the human body because they can be inhaled, can penetrate skin, can gain access to tissues and cells, and can cross the blood-brain barriers.
“There is virtually no data on chronic, long-term effects on people, other organisms or the wider environment,” wrote British scientist John Lawton, author of a report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
Nano Clothing Technology
Many clothing products are being manufactured. and without labels, even though the particles may easily seep into our blood streams and brains.
A recent study published in Nature showed that carbon nanotubes may exhibit the same cancer-causing potential as asbestos.
In tests on rats, nanosilver has also been shown to be toxic to liver, brain, and stem cells and may harm beneficial bacteria.
Calls for Action
Given the above, the National Research Council has called for more research on the health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology.
The Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration and Friends of the Earth are calling for a moratorium on products containing nanoparticles until safety laws are established and the public is involved in decision making.
Like genetic engineering, nanotechnology is viewed as a techo-fix to solve the worlds’ food challenges. Don’t believe the hype. The technology, instead, may have devastating impacts – including and not limited to health harms, adding to species extinctions, encouraging more reliance on large monoculture farms, and the thereby the loss of food biodiversity.
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