Memorandum by Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
1. This memorandum sets out Defra's written
response to the inquiry that the Committee is undertaking into
nanotechnologies and food.
2. We understand the inquiry specifically
excludes the potential impacts of nanomaterials in waste streams
and the environment, instead focussing on food products and consumers.
3. In this context Defra would like to make
the Committee aware of the role of nanotechnology in pesticides
and highlight some related research on the potential environmental
benefits of nanotechnology use in agriculture.
4. Of the authorised pesticide products
currently on the market, nearly all utilise nanotechnology in
some way if they contain a surfactant eg an emulsifying agent
5. However, rather than being a novel nanoscale
process this is actually an established method of pesticide production,
with these surfactants (which are necessarily at the nanoscale)
acting to stabilise the product.
6. There are currently 1,468 products
approved for use in the UK that utilise surfactants. All agricultural
pesticides used throughout Europe are considered under an EU review
programme to ensure that the safety of all pesticides is evaluated
to modern standards. This is implemented in the UK through the
Plant Protection Products Regulations 1995 as amended.
7. We are aware of research being undertaken
into developing "smart nanoscale pesticides" aimed at
slower release (so reducing the amount of pesticide needed). However,
we understand this remains at the R&D phase and we are not
yet clear whether these would actually be considered as being
at the nanoscale ie <100nm.
8. Defra published a report in May 2007 entitled
"Environmentally beneficial nanotechnologies: barriers and
opportunities", which can be viewed at:
9. In this report the possible benefits
of nanoscale environmental sensors in agriculture were highlighted,
as these could allow more precise nutrient management. However,
this was in the context of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and
was not explored in detail in the report.