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Nanotechnology in Danger of Losing Organic Foods Industry

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NanoReg Report

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While no one was paying attention, the organic foods industry considered steps to ban all nanotechnology products in foods, processes and packaging. Dozens of comments were submitted prior to a recent meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) where the Materials Committee recommended a prohibition of all that is nanotechnology. The comments reflect a nearly universal sentiment among consumer groups that there is no place for nanotechnology in the organic industry.

With over 60 speakers at the recent meeting in Washington, DC only two speakers questioned the rationale for the prohibition and took exception to a draconian attempt to regulate a whole technology rather than individual substances. If adopted, the prohibition would not allow hard surfaces with nanoscale antimicrobials, food products enhanced with nanoscale materials or packages that incorporate nanomaterials.

NanoReg’s John DiLoreto provided comments to the NOSB in an effort to inform the Board on the implications of such a ban for the organic foods industry and the potential effects on related industries. Betty Bugusu of the Institute of Food Technologists echoed these comments in addition to providing a recommendation to use sound science in the decision-making process rather than emotional anecdotes by concerned consumers.

Many speakers went in the opposite direction with their comments. Most wanted to ban nanotechnology in any form to keep it from entering the organic foods supply chain or even allow its use in packaging. A frequent recommendation in the public comments included altering the definition of nanomaterials to include all engineered nanomaterials less than 300 nanometers in any dimension.

In considering all of the public comments the NOSB ultimately decided to delay any action on a prohibition until meetings scheduled for spring 2010. The primary reason cited for the delay in action on the recommended prohibition was a desire to “fully understand what impact may result from their recommendation.”

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, part of the 1990 Farm Bill, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to appoint a 15-member NOSB. The board’s main mission is to assist the Secretary in developing standards for substances to be used in organic production. The NOSB also advises the Secretary on other aspects of implementing the national organic program.

Source: NanoReg Report; reproduced with permission.