Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Annex 1



  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 Embrapa—The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.

  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 nanotechnology—around £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, etc.)

  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 barrier.

    — Functional packaging, with functional additives, including nutri-ceuticals (vitamins), spices, flavour, aroma.

    — 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 fibres.

  Brazil does not seem to have any dedicated regulatory framework for nanotechnology research.

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