EVIDENCE FROM BRAZIL
Brazil is the world's largest producer and exporter
of agricultural goods. The sector contributes more than 20 per
cent of Brazilian GDP, and as such is considered to be a key area
of strategic interest for the Brazilian economy. In this context,
Brazil continues to invest heavily in research and development
related to agri-technologies, and nano-technology has been identified
as a priority. Brazilian efforts in this area are channelled through
an organisation EmbrapaThe Brazilian Agricultural Research
Embrapa is an agency of the Brazilian Ministry
of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) in charge of
developing and extending knowledge and technology generation and
transfer across a broad range of programme areas to achieve sustainable
agricultural development in Brazil. Embrapa is a world-leading
research organisation when it comes to tropical agriculture.
Its budget increased by R$914 million (approximately
£278 million) from May 2008 to December 2010 through
PAC (Growth Acceleration Programme) a Federal government initiative.
This contribution was added to Embrapa's already existing budget
(around half a billion GBP) and will be used for new research,
facilities, the modernisation of infrastructure of labs, and for
hiring new staff. The strategy released by the Brazilian government
states that the investment should focus on work related to new
challenges of agriculture, which are; new areas of science (genomics,
nanotech, TI), challenges of production (food security, climate
change, sustainable agriculture), public policies (including knowledge
transfer) and institutional flexibility (international cooperation).
According to the Brazilian Minister for Agriculture, Reinhold
Stephanes, Embrapa is responsible for 60 per cent of the increase
in field production in Brazil, which grew by 150 per cent in the
last 15 years.
Brazil is also investing heavily in nanotechnologyaround
£70 Million were invested between 2001 and 2006 by
the Ministry for Science and Technology. Nanotech also features
as a key priority in the Brazilian Strategy for Science and Technology.
In this context Embrapa has decided to set up
a dedicated National Centre for Nanotechnology Applied to Agri-business,
which is hosted in the city of Sao Carlos (Sao Paulo state). The
Centre has the specific objectives of increasing the competitiveness
of Brazilian agriculture through the development of new nano-technologies.
Importantly, the Centre has formed partnerships with important
companies in the private sector, such as Vale Rio Doce, Braskem,
the Brazilian Association of Agri-business, and Guaxupe (coffee).
The Centre has set up a successful National
Network for Nanotechnology Applied to Agri-business, which includes
every major player across the private and public sectors. This
national network is responsible for managing Brazil's priorities
in the sector, by designing research programmes and applications
in conjunction with Brazilian private companies and farmers. The
Network is divided in three main programmes: 1) Development of
nano-structured materials and sensors, 2) Processing techniques
for membranes and films for packaging and separation processes
3) New uses for materials based on agro-industrial processes (fibres,
The following have been identified as priorities
in the area of applications:
"Ready to Eat", edible bioplastic
coating. The Network's strategy notes that the US edible bioplastic
coating market has increased from 19 Million USD in 2001 to
103 Million in 2006.
Edible bioplymer coating generating a
Functional packaging, with functional
additives, including nutri-ceuticals (vitamins), spices, flavour,
Nanoparticles of natural polymers (chitosan,
pectin, starch), for applications in packaging, antimicrobial,
strength reinforcement, controlled release.
Palate sensors for quality control (this
is an Embrapa International patent, aimed primarily at increasing
the quality of Brazilian wine).
Hidrogel for soil conditioning.
Hidrogel for controlled release of pesticides.
Agro-based composites (amid, fibres).
Cellulose nanofibers from cotton, new
varieties (colored cotton), sisal, and nanoparticles, including
starch and chitosan.
Improvement in mechanical properties
in PVC composites.
Recycled Polyethylene terephthalate and
sugar cane bagasse fibre.
Note: Sugar cane bagasse fibres are largely
produced in Brazil as a by-product from the sugar cane and bio-ethanol
industries. In 2006 Brazil produced 387 Million tons
of sugar cane, and 100 Million tons of sugar cane bagasse
Brazil does not seem to have any dedicated regulatory
framework for nanotechnology research.