International Union of Food Workers calls for moratorium on nanotechnology in food and agriculture

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 on following page).

“Nanotechnology, the manipulation of materials at the scale of atoms and molecules, is being used increasingly in the food and agriculture sectors,” said Friends of the Earth nanotechnology spokesperson Georgia Miller.

“The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group estimates that there are over 300 nano food products now available world-wide, although very few of these are labelled as “nano”.”

“There is a growing body of evidence that nanomaterials pose serious new risks to human health and the environment. The United Kingdom’s Royal Society has called for all products containing nanomaterials to be subject to safety testing by scientific authorities prior to their commercial release. The Royal Society also recommended that factories and research laboratories treat nanomaterials as if they were hazardous”.

“Given nanotechnology’s risks, Swiss Re, the world’s second largest reinsurer, has said: “the precautionary principle should be applied whatever the difficulties”.”

“However while there are hundreds of products that contain nanomaterials now on the global market, nanoproducts remain effectively unregulated, leaving workers, the public and the environment at risk.”

“The call for a moratorium on nanotechnology by the International Union of Food Workers voices a clear lack of confidence in government’s commitment world wide to protect the health of workers from nanotoxicity’s risks.”

“The IUF also has strong concerns about the social implications of nanotechnology’s use in food and agriculture. It calls for the World Trade Organization to “suspend the grant of patents related to nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until the countries affected and social movements can carry out an evaluation of their impact”, said Ms Miller.

For information contact:

Georgia Miller, Friends of the Earth Australia, 0437 979 402

Peter Rossman, International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers,

+ 41 22 793 22 33, peter.rossman@iuf.org

Resolution on nanotechnology passed by International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers at the 25th IUF Congress meeting in Geneva, March 19-22, 2007

Considering

That we are in a world in which science is advancing faster than society, a world driven by business profit where nanotechnology (NT) is launching products on the market before society has the opportunity to analyse their effects.

That civil society and social movements must embark on a broad debate on NT and its economic, environmental, social and health implications. We must not fall into the error of accepting that discussions of NT should be left in the hands of "experts".

The 25th IUF Congress meeting in Geneva, March 19-22, 2007

Resolves:

1. To mobilize our affiliated organizations and urge them to discuss with the rest of society and governments the possible consequences of NT.

2. To demand that governments and the international organizations concerned apply the Principle of Precaution, prohibiting the sale of food, beverages and fodder, and all agricultural inputs which contain nanotechnology, until it is shown that they are safe and to approve an international system of regulation specifically designed to analyse these products.

2. To demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) suspend the grant of patents related to nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until the countries affected and social movements can carry out an evaluation of their impact.

3. To demand that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) update the Codex Alimentarius, taking into account the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture.

4. To request the WHO to initiate short and long-term studies into the potential effects of nanotechnology - especially nanoparticles - on the health of the technicians and workers that produce them, users and consumers.

5. To request the International Labour Organization (ILO) to carry out an urgent study into the possible impact of nanotechnology on conditions of work and employment in agriculture and in the food industry. Following completion of the study, a Tripartite Conference on the subject must be convened as soon as possible.

Submitted by the 13th Conference of Rel-UITA

For queries or further information contact:

Peter Rossman, International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers

Phone: + 41 22 793 22 33 (Switzerland) Email: peter.rossman@iuf.org