The new National Nanotechnology Strategy Taskforce report “Options for a National Nanotechnology Strategy”, released by Industry Minister Macfarlane on 12 September, fails to address the most significant public interests issues raised by nanotechnology, suggesting that the Federal Government is setting itself up for a repeat of the backlash that greeted genetically engineered foods.

Engineered nanoparticles are now found in hundreds of consumer products including cosmetics, sunscreens, fabrics, paints, furniture varnishes and even some food products. But despite emerging evidence of the serious risks of nanotoxicity, the report fails to recommend a halt to the commercial release of products containing engineered nanoparticles until regulations are introduced to protect consumers, workers and the environment from its risks.

The report also makes no recommendation for involving the general public in decision making regarding nanotechnology’s introduction.

The failure to require independent safety testing of nanoparticles prior to their inclusion in consumer products is extremely disappointing given the emerging evidence of serious new risks posed by nanotoxicity.

In 2004 the United Kingdom’s Royal Society recommended that “ingredients in the form of nanoparticles should undergo a full safety assessment by the relevant scientific advisory body before they are permitted for use in products.