In an article published in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, FoEA’s Georgia Miller argues that governments and industry have learned little from the mistakes they made in GM foods.
On 25 March, in the first reading of the new Novel Foods Directive, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) overwhelmingly voted in favour of setting stringent new rules for the safety assessment of foods produced used nanotechnology (‘nanofoods’). The directive states that nanofoods may only be placed on the market after being subject to an approved nano-specific, standardised, safety assessment that is free of animal-testing. As the tests for such an assessment do not exist yet, the amended novel food directive constitutes a de facto moratorium on sales of nano food in the European Union.This must now be agreed by the national governments represented in the Council of the European Union.
ABC Online writes that: "Australian unions and industry are calling for urgent regulation to protect workers from the risks of nanotechnology, while scientists are struggling to keep up the supply of hard data."
When hearing a legal case, in decision making on the board of a major bank or company, and in parliaments around the world, it’s accepted practice to declare any potential conflicts of interest, and to absent yourself from taking part in decision making if one occurs. Not so with governments’ involvement in nanotechnology. World-wide, governments are at once key nanotechnology proponents, major funders, risk assessors, regulators and public ‘educators’. This conflict of interest is undermining efforts to initiate public ‘dialogue’ and is compromising the credibility of government-sponsored nanotechnology education programs.
A study has demonstrated inter-generational harm resulting from exposure to a commonly used nanoparticle, titanium dioxide. A group of Japanese researchers have shown the transfer of nanoparticles from pregnant mice to their offspring, with related brain damage, nerve system damage and reduced sperm production in male offspring. Titanium dioxide is one of the most widely used nanoparticles, found in cosmetics, sunscreens, food packaging, household cleaning products and appliances, paints, dirt repellant coatings for windows and many other applications. The authors of the study warn "Our findings suggest the need for great caution to handle the nanomaterials for workers and consumers". Carbon fullerenes have also previously been shown to damage developing mouse embryos.