In a world first, citing concerns about nanotechnology’s health risks and social impacts, the International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers (IUF) has called for a moratorium on the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture (see full text of resolution below).
Is nanotechnology a ground breaking powerful new technology? Or is it neither new nor really a singular technology? We are told that it heralds "the next industrial revolution". Will its effects be revolutionary? Or familiar and incremental? Is nanotechnology’s development inevitable? Or precarious? Are its implications nothing to be afraid of? Or are they so profound as to give cause for alarm? Does nanotechnology raise important new ethical issues or not? Australian ethicist Dr Robert Sparrow provides a detailed new critique (download below) of the contradictions inherent in the emerging debate about nanotechnology.
In response to the ever increasing number of consumer products containing silver nanoparticles (cling wrap, refrigerators, washing machines, socks, tooth paste), Friends of the Earth Australia has prepared a detailed background paper (download below) on the threat of nanosilver to soil, water and human health. The paper also discusses regulatory issues surrounding the use of nanosilver and reviews the toxicological literature.
Warning that nanomaterials could be the "21st century asbestos", NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon has called for a moratorium on the sale of all products that contain nanomaterials until adequate regulation is in place to manage the health and environment risks of nanotoxicity. The NSW Greens call follows that of Greens in other countries. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament representing south-east England, called for a nanotech moratorium in 2003.
The "precautionary principle" has become the proverbial giant elephant in the nano-living room. Leading advocates for the "responsible development" of nanotechnology acknowledge that nanomaterials may present serious health and environmental risks which remain poorly understood. Yet almost no-one is prepared to raise the question of whether a precautionary approach to managing these risks is warranted, let alone to advocate that such an approach is necessary.