Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum by Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS)[14]

  The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is pleased to submit the following evidence to assist the Committee in its inquiry into Nanotechnologies and Food.

  Our response provides the information that the Committee requested from the Science and Innovation Network about nanotechnologies in food in the following countries:

    — Brazil (Annex 1)

    — China (Annex 2)

    — France (Annex 3)

    — Germany (Annex 4)

    — Japan (Annex 5)

    — United States of America (Annex 6)

  DIUS notes that the Food Standards Agency, the Research Councils UK and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are also submitting evidence on areas for which they have responsibility.

  DIUS has a wider responsibility for promoting good practice in public engagement about science and technologies. The Sciencewise-Expert Resource Centre[15] supports public dialogue projects and aims to promote best practice in Government departments. It also builds capacity for public dialogue and engagement across Government.

  DIUS also provides funding for the Research Councils to support research and related post-graduate training. The Research Councils support a broad range of activities relating to nanotechnologies, which include support for research which has or may have an application in the food sector. They have also been involved in public engagement activities focusing on the social, ethical, legal and regulatory issues surrounding applications of nanotechnologies. Research Council activities and inputs into the cross-Government coordination activities are coordinated by the RCUK Nanotechnology Group. The Research Councils are submitting separate evidence to the inquiry.

  In addition, DIUS chairs the Ministerial and policy coordination groups that seek to coordinate work across Government to ensure the responsible development of nanotechnologies. These groups consider the implications for nanotechnologies across a wide range of policy areas and we would like to draw the Committee's attention to key documents that explain the wider Government agenda, its coordination and how we are pursuing it in international fora.

  In February 2005, the Government published its response[16] to the Royal Society and Academy of Engineering report "Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties".[17] The response set out the Government's agenda for nanotechnologies and invited the Council for Science and Technology to review its progress after two and five years. The Council reported on its first review in March 2007 in Nanosciences and nanotechnologies: a review of Government's progress on its policy commitments.[18]

  Following the report by the Council for Science and Technology, the Government established a Ministerial group on nanotechnologies, chaired by the Science and Innovation Minister, to make sure that the UK continues to play a leading role in the understanding, development and regulation of nanotechnologies. The Ministerial group is informed by policy[19] and research[20] coordination groups and views expressed in the Nanotechnologies Stakeholder Forum.[21] At the request of the Ministerial group, a statement by the UK Government[22] was published in February 2008 setting out the Government's vision for nanotechnologies and outlining the range of activities being carried out.

  More recently, the Ministerial group announced[23] its intention to develop a strategy for nanotechnologies that addresses both the exploitation of technologies and the management of potential risks. This will be developed in dialogue with the full spectrum of interested parties (academia, industry, non-governmental organisations and the public). DIUS is currently developing the programme of dialogue which will build on lessons learned from previous public engagement activities around nanotechnologies.[24]

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