sábado, 17 de outubro de 2009

Food industry 'too secretive' over nanotechnology


Comment from Patrick Mulvany, Co-chair UK Food Group, Friday, January 8, 2010

As warned in my New Year message, industry is pushing hard for greater control over the food system. Beyond GMOs, proprietary nanotechnologies and synthetic biology will confer even greater control to food and agribusinesses. Following hot on the heels of the DEFRA 2030 food strategy , published on Tuesday this week, which says "GM, like nanotechnology, is not a technological panacea for meeting the varied and complex challenges of food security, but could have some potential to help meet future challenges", the House of Lords published its report on Thursday "Nanotechnologies and Food". 
A BBC report on this is pasted below. The House of Lords report can be found here (report) and evidence here . The House of Lords committee, headed by Krebs (ex Food Standards Agency), is trying to educate the public to accept nanoparticles in their food or food packaging. The estimated market in food related nanotechnology is expected to increase 10 fold by 2012. 
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, , run by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has found that there are currently 84 foods or food-related products that use nanotechnology. Lord Krebs said that the industry "...got their fingers burnt over the use of GM crops and so they want to keep a low profile on this issue. We believe that they should adopt exactly the opposite approach. If you want to build confidence you should be open rather than secretive." The openness and transparency proposed by the House of Lords committee is, however, very limited... Recommendation 30 says: "8.30. Consumers can expect to have access to information about the food they eat. But blanket labelling of nanomaterials on packages is not, in our view, the right approach to providing information about the application of nanotechnologies." Georgia Miller's (Friends of the Earth, Australia) excellent evidence to the Committee, in the same session with Sue Davies of WHICH and Vyvyan Howard, Soil Association (pp 156 and following, in part 2 of the report) includes in annexe the call from CSOs for a moratorium in the use of nanomaterials in food and agriculture. CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS WHICH HAVE CALLED FOR A MORATORIUM ON NANOTECHNOLOGY'S USE IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE Growing numbers of civil society groups have called for a moratorium on the commercial release of food, food packaging, food contact materials and agrochemicals that contain manufactured nanomaterials until nanotechnology-specific regulation is introduced to protect the public, workers and the environment from their risks. 

Some of these groups are also insisting that the public be involved in decision making. Groups calling for a moratorium include: Corporate Watch (UK); the ETC Group; Friends of the Earth (Australia, Europe and the United States); GeneEthics (Australia); Greenpeace International; International Centre for Technology Assessment (US); International Federation of Journalists; the Loka Institute; Practical Action; and The Soil Association UK. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, representing 12 million workers from 120 countries, has also called for a moratorium. The Nyeleni Forum for Food Sovereignty was a civil society meeting of peasants, family farmers, fisher people, nomads, indigenous and forest peoples, rural and migrant workers, consumers and environmentalists from across the world. Delegates were concerned that the expansion of nanotechnology into agriculture will present new threats to the health and environment of peasant and fishing communities and further erode food sovereignty. 

The forum also resolved to work towards an immediate moratorium on nanotechnology (Nye'le'ni 2007—Forum for Food Sovereignty 2007). The organic sector is also beginning to move to exclude nanomaterials from organic food and agriculture. The United Kingdom's largest organic certification body announced in late 2007 that it will ban nanomaterials from all products which it certifies. All organic foods, health products, sunscreens and cosmetics that the Soil Association certifies will now be guaranteed to be free from manufactured nanomaterial additives (British Soil Association 2008). The Biological Farmers of Australia, Australia's largest organic representative body, have also moved to ban nanomaterials from products it certifies. A faux 'moratorium' is proposed by the House of Lords committee. It is simply a recommendation not to allow the use of unlicensed materials. Risk Assessment "8.20. We endorse the case-by-case approach taken by the European Food Safety Authority in assessing the safety of products. It allows the responsible development of low-risk products where safety data are available and is, in effect, a selective moratorium on products where safety data are not available. It provides consumers with the greatest security and ensures that unless a product can be fully safety assessed, on its own merits, it will not be allowed on to the market (paragraph 6.12). (Recommendation 20)" It might be useful for the House of Lords committee to set this report in the context of a food sovereignty, as opposed to the food industry's, interpretation of DEFRA's indicators for a sustainable food system. A food sovereignty interpretation would emphasise specific indicators for good, healthy food sourced as locally as possible from knowledgeable and skilled food providers who use ecological practices.

The indicators align to each section of Food 2030:
1. Enabling and encouraging people to eat a healthy, sustainable diet
2. Ensuring a resilient, profitable and competitive food system
3. Increasing food production sustainably
4. Reducing the food system’s greenhouse gas emissions
5. Reducing, reusing and reprocessing waste
6. Increasing the impact of skills, knowledge, research and technology

The indicator assessments on the following pages should be read in conjunction with the UK Food Security Assessment For a backgrounder on the potential dangers of nanotechnology in the food system see "Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture" We need to be vigilant. Patrick PS You may be interested to see that DEFRA's statistics team praises Cadbury's decision to make its Dairy Milk bar a fairtrade product (Indicators, p 123). This is the same DEFRA that highlights Kraft foods as an example of sustainable practice (Food 2030, p 28). People in Bournville will not be amused... DEFRA should rather have called in Kraft for 'sharp practice'. Patrick Mulvany Co-chair UK Food Group Senior Policy Adviser PracticalAction Bourton, Rugby, CV23 9QZ



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