...read the wave
Nano Debate...Nano-Debatten...Nano-Debat
www.nano-Tsunami.com

 

Down on the Farm:
The Impact of Nano-scale Technologies
on Food and Agriculture


The ETC Group, an international research and advocacy organisation based in Ottawa, Canada, today announces the publication of "Down on the Farm," the first comprehensive look at how nano-scale technologies will affect farmers, food and agriculture. Nanotechnology refers to the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, where size is measured in billionths of metres and quantum physics determines how a substance behaves. According to Hope Shand, ETC Group's Research Director, "Over the next two decades, technologies converging at the nano-scale will have a greater impact on farmers and food than farm mechanisation or the Green Revolution."

"Down on the Farm" dishes out some big surprises: A handful of food and nutrition products containing invisible and un-labeled nano-scale additives are already on supermarket shelves. In addition, a number of pesticides containing nano-scale materials have been released in the environment and are commercially available. Nano-scale materials exhibit different properties than the same materials at larger scales - and scientists are now finding out that nano-scale materials are generally more reactive and mobile if they enter the body. Only a handful of toxicological studies exist. Because of these concerns, the use of new, nano-scale materials must be guided by the Precautionary Principle. "By allowing nanotech food and agricultural products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight, governments and industry may be igniting a new and more intense debate - this time over 'atomically-modified' foods," adds Jim Thomas, ETC Group Programme Manager based in Oxford, UK.

Global Outreach: ETC Group is taking its new nanotech report to farm organisations, social movements and governments worldwide. In Bangladesh, ETC Group Executive Director, Pat Mooney, is attending the Asia-Pacific Conference on Food Sovereignty where representatives from 30 countries will hear about the impacts of nano-scale technologies on food and farming; in Brazil, Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group is meeting with Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement), one of the largest social movements in Latin America. Last week ETC's Jim Thomas presented Down on the Farm to government representatives attending the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and Hope Shand addressed the annual convention of the National Farmers Union in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Most of the world's largest food and beverage corporations - including Unilever, Nestlé and Kraft - are conducting research and development (R&D) on nano-scale technologies to engineer, process, package and deliver food and nutrients. Major agribusiness firms, such as Syngenta, BASF, Bayer and Monsanto are reformulating their pesticides at the nano-scale to make them more biologically active and to win new monopoly patents. Down on the Farm examines a wide range of current R&D, ranging from atomically-modified seeds, nano-sensors for precision agriculture, plants engineered to produce metal nanoparticles, nano-vaccines for farmed fish, nano-barcodes for tracking and controlling food products, and more.

Last month the US Patent and Trademark Office established a new classification for nanotechnology patents, notes ETC Group. "It's ironic that a company can win a monopoly patent because their nano-scale product is recognised as novel, but food and safety regulators have yet to acknowledge the novelty of the nano-scale," notes ETC Researcher, Kathy Jo Wetter in North Carolina.

Commodity Roulette: Industry expects nano-scale technologies to create dramatic shifts in supply and value chains, turning commodity markets upside-down. ETC Group finds that small farmers and agricultural workers in the developing world will be among the first and most adversely affected by nanotech's new designer materials. Poor farmers are seldom in a position to respond quickly to abrupt economic changes. Particularly at risk are farm communities and countries in the global South that depend on primary export commodities such as rubber and cotton - products that could be displaced by new nanotech materials. "Even if there might be environmental benefits to replacing some natural commodities with materials designed at the nano-scale, that won't prevent market disruptions from causing real harm in the global South," explains Jim Thomas.

ETC Group recommends that society - including farmers, civil society organisations and social movements - engage in a wide debate about nano-scale technologies and their multiple economic, health and environmental implications. "Any efforts by governments or industry to confine the discussion to meetings of experts or to focus the debate solely on health and safety aspects will be a mistake. The broader social and ethical issues must be addressed," warns ETC's Silvia Ribeiro, Programme Manager in Mexico City.

In 2002, ETC called for a moratorium on the commercialisation of new nano-scale materials until laboratory protocols and regulatory regimes are in place that take into account the special characteristics of these materials, and until they are shown to be safe. Accordingly, in Down of the Farm, ETC Group recommends that all food, feed and beverage products incorporating manufactured nanoparticles be removed from the shelves and new ones be prohibited from commercialisation until companies and regulators have shown that they have taken nano-scale property changes into account. Similarly, nano-scale formulations of agricultural products such as pesticides and fertilisers should be prohibited from environmental release until a regulatory regime specifically designed to examine these nano-scale products finds them safe.

Goo Plate Special: ETC's report also puts the spotlight on the rapidly emerging field of synthetic biology - the construction of new living systems in the laboratory that can be programmed to do things that no natural organism can. "Living machines" frequently involve the integration of living and non-living parts at the nano-scale - also known as nanobiotechnology. "What if new life forms, especially those that are designed to function autonomously in the environment, prove difficult to control or contain?" asks ETC Group. Given the extreme risks (that even mainstream scientists are beginning to acknowledge), Down on the Farm calls for an immediate moratorium on laboratory experimentation and environmental release of synthetic biology materials until society can engage in a thorough analysis of the health, environmental and socio-economic implications.

"Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture" is available on the ETC Group web site: http://www.etcgroup.org

For more information:

Hope Shand: hope@etcgroup.org Kathy Jo Wetter: kjo@etcgroup.org
ETC Group - North Carolina, USA phone: 1-919-960-5223

Jim Thomas jim@etcgroup.org
ETC Group - Oxford, UK phone: +44 1865 201719 mobile: +44 7752 106806

Silvia Ribeiro: silvia@etcgroup.org
ETC Group - Mexico City phone: +52 5555 6326 64 mobile: +52 5526 5333 30

Pat Mooney: etc@etcgroup.org
ETC Group - Ottawa, Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267


ETC Group headquarters - NEW ADDRESS:

ETC Group
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 200B
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7 Canada
tel: 1-613-241-2267; fax: 1-613-241-2506

The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI, is an international civil society organization headquartered in Canada. The ETC Group is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. www.etcgroup.org. The ETC Group is also a member of the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme (CBDC). The CBDC is a collaborative experimental initiative involving civil society organizations and public research institutions in 14 countries. The CBDC is dedicated to the exploration of community-directed programmes to strengthen the conservation and enhancement of agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is www.cbdcprogram.org

At present, the full text of Down on the Farm is only available as a PDF document. Below is a summary. If you would like to receive the full text of Down on the Farm as an RTF document, please contact etc@etcgroup.org or download .pdf here
Summary

Issue: Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules (a nanometer [nm] is one-billionth of a meter), is rapidly converging with biotech and information technology to radically change food and agricultural systems. Over the next two decades, the impacts of nano-scale convergence on farmers and food will exceed that of farm mechanisation or of the Green Revolution. Converging technologies could reinvigorate the battered agrochemical and agbiotech industries, igniting a still more intense debate – this time over "atomically-modified" foods. No government has developed a regulatory regime that addresses the nano-scale or the societal impacts of the invisibly small. A handful of food and nutrition products containing invisible and unregulated nano-scale additives are already commercially available. Likewise, a number of pesticides formulated at the nano-scale are on the market and have been released in the environment.

Impact: From soil to supper, nanotechnology will not only change how every step of the food chain operates but it will also change who is involved. At stake is the world’s $3 trillion food retail market, agricultural export markets valued at $544 billion, the livelihoods of some 2.6 billion farming people and the well-being of the rest of us who depend upon farmers for our daily bread.[1] Nanotech has profound implications for farmers (and fisher people and pastoralists) and for food sovereignty worldwide. Agriculture may also be the proving ground for technologies that can be adapted for surveillance, social control and biowarfare.

Policies: The GM (genetically modified) food debate not only failed to address environmental and health concerns, it disastrously overlooked the ownership and control issues. How society will be affected and who will benefit are critical concerns. Because nanotech involves all matter, nano patents can have profound impacts on the entire food system and all sectors of the economy. Synthetic biology and nano-materials will dramatically transform the demand for agricultural raw materials required by processors. Nano-products came to market – and more are coming – in the absence of regulation and societal debate. The merger of nanotech and biotech has unknown consequences for health, biodiversity and the environment. Governments and opinion-makers are running 8-10 years behind society’s need for information, public debate and policies.

Recommendations: By allowing nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight, governments, agribusiness and scientific institutions have already jeopardised the potential benefits of nano-scale technologies. First and foremost, society – including farmers, civil society organisations and social movements – must engage in a wide debate about nanotechnology and its multiple economic, health and environmental implications. In keeping with the Precautionary Principle, all food, feed and beverage products (including nutritional supplements) that incorporate manufactured nanoparticles should be removed from the shelves and new ones prohibited from commercialisation until such time as laboratory protocols and regulatory regimes are in place that take into account the special characteristics of these materials, and until they are shown to be safe. Similarly, nano-scale formulations of agricultural input products such as pesticides, fertilisers and soil treatments should be prohibited from environmental release until a new regulatory regime specifically designed to examine these products finds them safe. Governments must also move immediately to establish a moratorium on lab experimentation with – and the release of – "synthetic biology" materials until society can engage in a thorough analysis of the health, environmental, and socio-economic implications. Any efforts by governments or industry to confine discussions to meetings of experts or to focus debate solely on the health and safety aspects of nano-scale technologies will be a mistake. The broader social and ethical issues must also be addressed.

At the intergovernmental level, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) standing committees and commissions on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and genetic resources should be monitoring and debating the new technologies – with active input and feedback from peasant and small farmers’ organisations. FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems should immediately begin to examine the socio-economic implications for farmers, food safety and national governments. The UN/FAO Committee on World Food Security should be discussing the implications for agro-terrorism as well as food sovereignty. Additionally, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity should review nanobiotech’s potential impact, especially on biosafety. Other UN agencies such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and International Labour Organization (ILO) should join with FAO to examine the impact of nanotech on the ownership and control of the world’s food supply, commodities and labour. The international community should establish a body dedicated to tracking, evaluating and monitoring new technologies and their products through an International Convention for the Evaluation of New Technologies (ICENT).

Note:

[1] IGD estimates that the global food retail market is $2.8 trillion. Statistics on total agricultural population and agricultural exports are from Jerry Buckland, Ploughing Up the Farm, Zed Books, 2004, p. 18 and p. 100.



www.nano-tsunami.com
This story has been adapted from a news release -
Diese Meldung basiert auf einer Pressemitteilung -
Deze tekst is gebaseerd op een nieuwsbericht -

 

 



who is reading
the wave ?

missed some news ?
click on archive photo

 

or how about joining us

 

or contacting us ?

 


about us

 

our mission