Can Science Stand Up to Politics in the Nanotech and Food Debate?

Back in October there was a fair amount of uproar on the nano blogosphere about the role of nanotechnology in food. This hue and cry was in part informed by the politically charged, but scientifically challenged, screed that came from the Friends of the Earth back in March of this year Out of the laboratory and on to our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture, which I discussed previously when it was originally released.

While Richard Jones over at his Soft Machines blog gave his typical reasoned and scientific, not to mention common sense, discussion of the issue, in the face of a politically astute group like the Friends of the Earth reason and science quickly get drowned out by hyperbole.

Perhaps the best way to deal with the situation is summed up over at TNTLog which suggests that maybe we should focus on the â''safetyâ'' aspect of food rather than the â''nanoâ'' aspect. This should serve as a memo to scientists when discussing this issue with the more politically agile. Sort of like Bill Clinton's campaign reminder: It's the economy, stupid!

Of course, the term â''nanotechnologyâ'' makes for a far more attractive boogey man than say â''encapsulationâ'' or â''food processingâ''. While the term â''processed foodâ'' has been thrown around like it was some disease for years, it hasnâ''t seemed to slow peopleâ''s desire to eat it.

So, when your first boogey man doesnâ''t seem to change peopleâ''s behavior, or alter government regulations on the food industry, trot out a new one: nanotechnology.

For those who would like to get a handle on the safety of food and nanotechnology, I direct you to this webcast of a lecture given by Frans Kampers who runs the BioNT labs at Wageningen University in central Holland.

There are few people who have dedicated themselves more to the subject of nanotechnology and food than Dr. Kampers, and this lecture gives you a pretty good idea of what the purpose of nanotechnology in food is all about, and how safe or dangerous it may be.

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