November 22, 2004

ETC Group releases "Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture"

The ETC Group, announces the publication of Down on the Farm, the first comprehensive look at how nano-scale technologies will affect farmers, food and agriculture. Nanotechnology refers to the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, where size is measured in billionths of metres and quantum physics determines how a substance behaves. According to Hope Shand, ETC Group’s Research Director, "Over the next two decades, technologies converging at the nano-scale will have a greater impact on farmers and food than farm mechanisation or the Green Revolution."

Down on the Farm dishes out some big surprises: A handful of food and nutrition products containing invisible and un-labeled nano-scale additives are already on supermarket shelves. In addition, a number of pesticides containing nano-scale materials have been released in the environment and are commercially available. Nano-scale materials exhibit different properties than the same materials at larger scales – and scientists are now finding out that nano-scale materials are generally more reactive and mobile if they enter the body. Only a handful of toxicological studies exist. Because of these concerns, the use of new, nano-scale materials must be guided by the Precautionary Principle. "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 based in Oxford, UK.

Global Outreach: ETC Group is taking its new nanotech report to farm organisations, social movements and governments worldwide. In Bangladesh, ETC Group Executive Director, Pat Mooney, is attending the Asia-Pacific Conference on Food Sovereignty where representatives from 30 countries will hear about the impacts of nano-scale technologies on food and farming; in Brazil, Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group is meeting with Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement), one of the largest social movements in Latin America. Last week ETC’s Jim Thomas presented Down on the Farm to government representatives attending the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and Hope Shand addressed the annual convention of the National Farmers Union in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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