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Nanotech in the biological world

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A Canadian advocacy group has called for a tighter regulation of nanotech's spread into the biological world. It has published a consultation document, Down on the Farm, which examines how nano-scale technologies will affect farmers, food and agriculture. The ETC group (Erosion, Technology and Concentration) has called for a moratorium on all lab experimentation and environmental release of synthetic biology - autonomous nano-scale devices - until their impact is better understood.

ETC warns that despite a paucity of research in the area - few toxicological studies exist - nano-scale additives have begun to make their way into food, and into pesticides. The group says that materials behave differently at a nano scale: they are often more reactive, and more mobile if they enter the body.

"By allowing nanotech food and agricultural products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight, governments and industry may be igniting a new and more intense debate – this time over ‘atomically modified’ foods," adds Jim Thomas, ETC Group Programme Manager.

The full report can be found here (pdf).

In related news, a group of industrial researchers and scientists have come together in the US to form a nanotechnology consortium. Headed by computer aided deisign specialists, Accelerys, the consortium has been founded to help scientists and engineers work together more closely. It will also lend its weight to developing new simulation and software tools to design nanomaterials and nanodevices.

The consortium held its first meeting in Manhattan on 3-6 October. Around 20 companies and institutions attended including Fujitsu, Corning, and Imperial College, London. ®

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