New Internationalist

Teeny tiny terror

June 2008

Nanotechnology – the manipulation of particles at microscopic levels – is being used in food additives, colourings and packaging, and governments are ignoring the risks, according to Georgia Miller, co-ordinator of the Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project. Multinationals such as Kraft, Nestlé and Unilever all have active nano-research programmes but are not legally obliged to inform anyone when they move them into commercial use. Miller reckons that regulators are being outpaced by the commercialization of nano-foods: ‘Three and a half years ago, the Royal Society [the world’s oldest scientific institution] demanded rigorous safety tests, but nano-particles are still being treated in the same way as larger particles. Yet they are more potent and can more easily penetrate our bodies’ cells.’ Thus elements like iron or zinc, which are beneficial to our diets and often used in health supplements, may become toxic at the nano level.

Aside from personal health issues, nanotechnology raises social questions. Agribusiness is harnessing the science to make more potent fertilizers and pesticides, and Miller believes this could lead to a new automated, remote system of farm management whereby agro-chemicals ‘know’ when to release their contents in response to specific climatic conditions. Such developments will undoubtedly harm small farmers already struggling to survive.

Hear Georgia Miller on Radio New Internationalist’s programme Not So Super-markets.

This column was published in the June 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Teeny tiny terror

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Currents

All Currents

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 412

New Internationalist Magazine issue 412
Issue 412

More articles from this issue

  • Bloodshot Monochrome

    June 1, 2008

    A new collection of poems by one of Britain's most significant poets

  • Daniel Variations

    June 1, 2008

    Steve Reich’s tribute to murdered journalist Daniel Pearl

  • Resist!

    June 1, 2008

    Anti-nuke action across the world

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.