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The Impact of Nanoscale Technologies on Agriculture & Food Systems: Critical Analysis of Nanotechnology Reports

Scott, Norman
Cornell University
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This project is beneficial to all five strategic goals of the USDA/CSREES. Its objective is a response to the ETC (Erosion, Technology and Conservation) Group's Report and the others which attack the potential applications of nanotechnology to many aspects of agricultural and food technologies including plant and animal production, food products, food processes, soil, water, natural resources and the environment.

A creditable high level scientific expert report will provide government officials a solid foundation to respond to similar attacks. Dissemination of such a report to the public can help to ease public anxiety towards new nano technologies and facilitate dialogue with the public in more productive way.

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Non-Technical Summary: To address the concerns raised by ETC and others about potential risks of nanotechnology to food and agriculture we propose a workshop of a diverse group of scientists to develop a science-based assessment. These reports have cited a large number (more than 200 references from trade journals, websites, professional publications, and research databases including CRIS) which raise concerns about increasing dangers associated with development and deployment of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies in food and agriculture systems. This perspective will likely produce a serious adverse effect to development and deployment of nanotechnology, especially for food and agriculture by generating mistrust between the public, the government and scientists. The purpose of this project is to: 1) Develop a better understanding of needs and gaps, the benefits and risks of nanotechnology to guide future research, education and outreach program planning within the food and agriculture sector and agencies in the NNI; 2) Develop a thorough and an indepth communication of benefits and risks of nanotechnology in agriculture and food systems; and 3) Create a sound reference for government officials for policy making decisions.

Approach: It is proposed to conduct a critical analysis of the ETC report based on the up-to-date science and facts by an expert panel through a workshop format. In addition there are other recent reports and statements from groups which suggest similar concerns that need to be addressed. The panel will be co-led by the NPL (Dr. Hongda Chen) and Dr. Norm Scott, a member of National Academy of Engineering. The co-leaders will organize the panel of 8 to 10 experts in nanotechnology and knowledgeable to major agricultural fields including expertise in biotechnology, toxicity, plant and animal sciences, food and nutrition, soil science, the environment, entomology, sensors, engineering, extension and social sciences. The panel will conduct a workshop to develop a thorough analysis of the reports and prepare a position paper for release. A report of critical analysis of the ETC report and others will be made available to the public. A position paper will be derived from the analysis that can serve as a highly credible reference for Government agencies like OSTP, NSET, NNCO, USDA, EPA, FDA and others on this critical front. It is intended that a synopsis of our report, particularly the conclusions, will be submitted to Science magazine for publication to expand its impact to society.

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Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Chemical Contaminants
Natural Toxins