Jan 9, 2010

The Nano Avtar threatening your food

While India is debating the need for GM crops, the global food industry is quitely moving forward using the still more dangerous technology option. Nanotechnology is now being increasingly used by the food industry to produce, among other things, foods with different colors.

A report published by the House of Lords Committee Science and Technology Committee tells us that at least 84 food products and packagings that using nanotechnology are available worldwide. The Lords committee heard that the global market for food nanotechnology will increase from $410 million (£260 million) in 2006 to $5.8 billion by 2012.

Scary indeed, knowing that the food industry is keeping the entire nano operations away from the public glare. I am sure India would be a major dumping ground for such unwanted foods. I am however not sure how many of such products are already in the Indian market.

My friend Mark Griffith of the Natural Law Publishing in Wessex has been tracking the controversy surrounding GM crops and also following the developments in nanotechnology. He says the notion that science has the capacity to assess the long-term health impacts of these minute novel particles in food is crass in the extreme. The techno fanatics believe, for example, that such feeble 'benefits' as making your food change colour when it approaches its use-by expiry justify all this.

By the time this is combined with GM ingredients coming generations can look forward to a veritable 'slow drip' witches brew on their plates.

Mark regrets that we never learned the lesson of trans fats, another artificial food supposed to have been good for consumers, but which decades later science finally admitted had been responsible for killing millions. For more on the trans fats 'experience' see http://www.nlpwessex.org/docs/transfats.htm

If you want to know briefly what nanotechnology is quietly doing to your food, read this report from The Times, London.

Secretive food firms risk public backlash, Lords warn

By Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Jan 8, 2010

The secretive attitude of food companies towards nanotechnology research risks starting a consumer backlash against products that could improve health and reduce waste, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

Nanomaterials that are 800 times finer than a human hair have the potential to deliver foods that are very low in fat and salt and packaging that changes colour when food is spoiled because of the strange properties of molecules at such a small scale. Their development, however, has also raised safety concerns because their effects on humans are poorly understood.

These fears have inspired a culture of secrecy about nanotechnology in the food industry because it is worried about a repeat of the GM crop safety scare, according to a report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. This lack of transparency could encourage exactly the sort of mistrust that companies hope to avoid.

The committee also found significant gaps in scientific understanding of the toxicology of nanomaterials, which need to be addressed urgently with new research so that they can be regulated effectively.

Nanomaterials are attractive to the food industry because their very small size gives them different properties from larger molecules. The attractive tastes of salt and fat could be achieved with lower quantities if nanoparticles are used, making healthier mayonnaise or ice cream. Nanomaterials that change colour on contact with the by-products of decomposing food could be used in smart packaging.

While nanotechnology is not used in food in Britain, at least 84 food products and packagings are available worldwide. The Lords committee heard that the global market for food nanotechnology will increase from $410 million (£260 million) in 2006 to $5.8 billion by 2012.

However, the committee said that food companies had avoided discussing the products that they were developing.

“The food industry was very reluctant to put its head above the parapet and declare openly what kind of research was going on to develop nanotechnology,” said Lord Krebs, the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency, who chaired the inquiry. “Part of the reason is that it got its fingers burnt over GM technology, so it’s attempting to keep a very low profile.

“Our view is that this is exactly the wrong approach. Our view is that secrecy is more likely to generate a backlash than being open, particularly as there are potentially consumer benefits.”

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