Under the Regulatory Radar? Nanotechnologies and Their Impacts for Rural Australia
Nanotechnology is the latest platform technology to capture the imagination of the agricultural and food industries, with applications being adopted across these entire sectors. With companies such as Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz investing heavily in nanotechnology research and development, industry commentators have suggested that the global nano-agri-food sector will, by 2010, be worth in excess of US$20 billion. While the nano-revolution is well under way, however, the entry of nanotechnologies into paddocks and onto our plates has occurred largely beneath the policy and regulatory radars. As such, agricultural inputs and food items that contain nano-materials are unlabelled, thereby preventing consumers from differentiating between nano-products and their non-nano counterparts. This situation persists, despite a mounting body of scientific evidence pointing to potential health and environmental risks associated with the manufacture of, and exposure to, nano-materials. While proponents of nanotechnology promise a range of benefits across the agri-food sector, this chapter considers the potential impact of the unfettered introduction of agriculture and food-related nanotechnologies on Australian rural communities. To date, this issue has received little recognition in the emerging debates. Our chapter contributes to these critical discussions by highlighting a range of social issues associated with the introduction of nanotechnology for rural Australia within the context of the development and application of nanotechnologies across the agri-food sector. The chapter also identifies potential human and environmental risks for these communities. We argue that a lack of nano-specific regulations could exacerbate a number of these risks.
Tracking Rural Change, Community, Policy and Technology in Australia, New Zealand and Europe