New nanotechnology strategy fails to address risks posed by nanoproducts on supermarket shelves

September 13, 2006

The new National Nanotechnology Strategy Taskforce report "Options for a National Nanotechnology Strategy", released yesterday by Industry Minister Macfarlane, 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”, said Friends of the Earth nanotechnology spokesperson Georgia Miller.
 
”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” [i] . However the National Nanotechnology Strategy Taskforce report fails to require safety testing of nanoparticles before they are included in products – leaving consumers and workers exposed to poorly understood toxicity risks”.
 
”It is unacceptable for the community to be treated like guinea pigs when it comes to the risks associated with nanotechnology,” said Ms Miller. “Products containing nanoparticles should not be commercially available until we have a regulatory regime in place that will protect the safety of consumers, workers and the environment from the risks associated with nanotoxicity.”
 
”There is an urgent need for a moratorium on the commercial research, development and manufacture of products that use nanotechnology until we can resolve these serious concerns about safety.”
 
”Friends of the Earth is also extremely disappointed that although the report discusses the need to raise community awareness about nanotechnology, it makes no recommendation to involve the general public in decision making regarding nanotechnology’s introduction. Given the potential for nanotechnology to reshape our world, it is essential that there be public participation in both the development of the National Nanotechnology Strategy and in decision making regarding its implementation,” said Ms Miller.

”Failure to take seriously the need to establish genuine public participation in decision making regarding nanotechnology's introduction, and failure to ensure that nanotechnology’s risks are managed to safeguard public safety, will inevitably result in a public backlash against nanotechnology. The Government are setting themselves up for a repeat of the backlash that greeted genetically engineered foods”.


[i] P95, Recommendation 12 (i), The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering, UK (2004). Nanoscience and nanotechnologies.  Available at http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/

For further comment please contact Georgia Miller: 0437 979 402