Nanotechnology, Miracle or Menace?

This debut blog is contributed by our editorial intern
Elizabeth Milway, an Oxford University graduate with
a background in biochemstry & bionanotechnology.

Recently wherever I turn nanotechnology keeps cropping up! At
first I thought – maybe it’s one of those things where once you’ve noticed
something you can’t stop noticing it, but then I did a little searching.

I found that recently there has been a huge amount of talk,
speculation, worry and anticipation about nanotechnology in all its forms. This discussion dates back over the last few weeks and years, but I thought I would
collect together some of the freshest view points in the news and media and present them here.

Hopefully you will see why nanotechnology is such a hot topic, from the vast range  of people
talking about this issue and the many and varied factors involved. But first a little definition to understand what all the fuss is about…

“Nanotechnology” includes anything that utilises components that are small enough to fall within the nano scale – from 1-100 nm. (1nm is 10−9 metre or 1 billionth of a metre).

One of the first things I came across was an interesting piece on the dangers of Google1 being able to skew public views of nanotechnology (and presumably other science-related
topics). The article explains how, by altering both the suggested searches presented when you begin a Google search and the actual order in which web pages are listed in search results, Google can affect the types of pages that
users view after searching for a term such as “nanotechnology”.

Then I came across the Food Standards Agency (FSA) magazine ‘Bite’, which tackles current food-related topics. ‘Bite’ has a double page2 spread on the current issues around nanotechnology in food and food packaging, in its most recent issue. The
article covers: ‘nanofoods’ and the potential for huge health benefits, the concerns over long term effects of nanoparticles on the human body, the lack of
EU wide documentation on nanofoods and nanotechnology in food packaging.

A recent issue of NewScientist has a special feature on nanofoods called ‘A Taste of the Tiny’ 3 covering many of the same issues but including discussions on “less fattening fat”, nanofoods tackling global malnutrition, new nano-iron supplements and of course the drawbacks of all these.

The chief scientist at the FSA has also been blogging about nanofoods 4, and picks up on another
thread that the New Scientist have been looking at – getting the public’s backing for nanotechnology to avoid another GM food situation 5.

At the end of March The Guardian produced a long piece entitled “Once Bitten…" on nanotechnology and its future in the food industry 6.They highlight the variety of areas where nanotechnology is already used in our daily lives, and then go on to talk about nanofoods and the possible scope and worries they present. They talk of: precision farming with “smart pesticides, or nanocides”, intelligent food packaging developments, ways to stabilise nutrients in foods, safety issues and public concern, the kind of money invested in nano-food projects and then the resulting difficulties getting food manufacturers to even admit they are
researching nanofoods.

You will have noted I’m sure, that these articles have a Nano-Foods Slant but of course it is not just the food industry that will benefit or have these concerns;  nanotechnology is poised to revolutionise almost every facet of technology (and in some cases already
has, e.g. self-cleaning buildings) and hence will impact all of our lives.

The general conclusion seems to be that nanotechnologies have too promising a potential to be neglected and are already around us in our daily lives; but there are genuine concerns which should be heeded – and I think as long as these worries are taken into consideration and proper
precautions are taken, nanotechnology has a lot to offer everyone everywhere.

If any of this has whetted your appetite for the Nano topic there is more than enough on our databases, Global Health and CAB Abstracts, to get you started, and also on our internet resource Food & Nutrition Science.

For subscribers, just type in “nanotechnology” as a search term and you will find 1565 records in CAB Abstracts and 776 in Global Health. On Global Health, “nanotechnology” + “food” returns 412 records and “nanotechnology”
+ (“safety” or “risks”) returns 175 records – and the list could go on. There is even a cabicode search term devoted to Biosensors
and Biological Nanotechnology, WW900, which enables you to examine the entire concept.

If you are not currently a subscriber, then you can gain free access as well international news by joining our monthly e-newsletters, Food & Nutrition Hotspot OR Global Health Knowledge Base.

Here are a few interesting records from Global Health, which span a number of topics:

  • Nanotechnology and food safety: potential
    benefits, possible risks?
    7 CAB Reviews:
    Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural
    Resources 2008 Vol. 3 No. 038 (Fulltext available. A commissioned review from our own internet reviews product)
  • Health benefits of new technologies in
    development that utilise nanotechnology
    . Nanotechnology: intelligent design to
    treat complex disease.
    8 Pharmaceutical Research 2006 Vol. 23 No. 7 pp. 1417-1450
  • Nano-diagnosis and therapies for cancer.9 Chinese
    Journal of Cancer Biotherapy 2008 Vol. 15 No. 5 pp. 401-405
  • Risks of nanomaterials to human health.10 Umweltmedizin in Forschung und Praxis 2009 Vol. 14 No. 1 pp. 7-22
  • Challenges in the assessment and management of
    health risks associated with emerging water micropollutants
    .11 Bulletin de
    l'Académie Nationale de Médecine 2009 Vol. 193 No. 6 pp. 1331-1344
  • Nanotechnology and developing world.12. PLoS
    Medicine 2005 Vol. 2 No. 5 pp. e97

 

 

 

One thought on “Nanotechnology, Miracle or Menace?

  1. Purity Products June 21, 2010 / 3:07 pm

    I know someone trying to buy a nanotechnology vitamin spray company. He feels it is the future, but I think it will be hard to educate consumers on the benefits of it. Will be interesting to see what happens.

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