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Gates Foundation moves from GMOs to nanotech foods

In a discouraging new development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a US$48 million partnership with the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The Gates Foundation has for years been fighting local communities' resistance to enforce a "green revolution" on Africa. African farmers have argued that the Gates/ Rockerfeller-backed "new green revolution" would act as a Trojan Horse for GMOs, and erode local farmers' knowledge and agricultural heritage. In short, they have argued that the philanthropic initiatives are acting as a smokescreen for multinational seed and agrochemical companies keen to open up a new market. Now, nanotechnology has been added to that equation.

Nanotechnology and the public interest: Repeating the mistakes of GM foods?

In an article published in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, FoEA's Georgia Miller argues that governments and industry have learned little from the mistakes they made in GM foods.

Members of European Parliament vote for de facto moratorium on nanotech food

On 25 March, in the first reading of the new Novel Foods Directive, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) overwhelmingly voted in favour of setting stringent new rules for the safety assessment of foods produced used nanotechnology ('nanofoods'). The directive states that nanofoods may only be placed on the market after being subject to an approved nano-specific, standardised, safety assessment that is free of animal-testing. As the tests for such an assessment do not exist yet, the amended novel food directive constitutes a de facto moratorium on sales of nano food in the European Union.This must now be agreed by the national governments represented in the Council of the European Union.

Calls to protect workers from nano risks

ABC Online writes that: "Australian unions and industry are calling for urgent regulation to protect workers from the risks of nanotechnology, while scientists are struggling to keep up the supply of hard data."

Questioning governments' role as chief nanotech proponent - a biased adjudicator?

When hearing a legal case, in decision making on the board of a major bank or company, and in parliaments around the world, it's accepted practice to declare any potential conflicts of interest, and to absent yourself from taking part in decision making if one occurs. Not so with governments' involvement in nanotechnology. World-wide, governments are at once key nanotechnology proponents, major funders, risk assessors, regulators and public 'educators'. This conflict of interest is undermining efforts to initiate public 'dialogue' and is compromising the credibility of government-sponsored nanotechnology education programs.

Nanoparticles used in sunscreens, cosmetics, harm next generation - mice studies

A study has demonstrated inter-generational harm resulting from exposure to a commonly used nanoparticle, titanium dioxide. A group of Japanese researchers have shown the transfer of nanoparticles from pregnant mice to their offspring, with related brain damage, nerve system damage and reduced sperm production in male offspring. Titanium dioxide is one of the most widely used nanoparticles, found in cosmetics, sunscreens, food packaging, household cleaning products and appliances, paints, dirt repellant coatings for windows and many other applications. The authors of the study warn "Our findings suggest the need for great caution to handle the nanomaterials for workers and consumers". Carbon fullerenes have also previously been shown to damage developing mouse embryos.

Finnish expert warns - don't let nano repeat asbestos mistakes

A top Finnish occupational health and safety expert has called for action to ensure that we do not repeat the tragic mistakes of asbestos by hailing to heed early evidence of nanotechnology health risks. The original article "Let us not allow the 20th century asbestos catastrophe to be followed by a nano catastrophe" was published by "Trade Union News" from Finland and is copied below.

High level EU scientific committee warns of asbestos-like risks of carbon nanotubes

The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) has just released its Risk Assessment of Products of Nanotechnologies. In light of shocking new studies last year finding that carbon nanotubes that look like asbestos fibres also pose asbestos-like health risks, the SCENIHR draws particular attention to the risks of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are now used commercially in electronics, specialty car and aeroplane parts, reinforced plastics and polymers, fuel filters and sports equipment. However it also warns that other nanomaterials such as nanowires that share the fibre like properties of asbestos are likely to also pose similar health problems.

Science and democracy - FoE United States at the World Social Forum

Joining environmental and social justice campaigners, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, unionists, students, academics and thousands of others, FoE United States nanotechnology and health campaigner Ian Illuminato blogs from the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, where the world's first Science and Democracy forum has just taken place:

20 reasons why geo-engineering is a bad idea

Plans by a German and Indian research team to dump iron particles in the sea off Chile in the latest 'geo-engineering' ocean fertilisation attempt have triggered serious concern. If you're interested in finding out more about the controversial field of 'geo-engineering', try reading Alan Robock's excellent overview of the field in "20 reasons why geo-engineering is a bad idea", published in the May/June 2008 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Another interesting exploration of the issues is in Australian ABC Radio National's background briefing "The climate engineers", transcript below.