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Posted: March 10, 2008
Pledge on regulation of nanotechnology products
(Nanowerk News) After Wayne Swan took the budgetary axe to the $21.5million Australian National Nanotechnology Strategy in January, Science Minister Kim Carr yesterday vowed to establish a system for regulating the commercial fruits of nanotechnology.
There are no national or international standards or testing procedures for food, packaging and agricultural products containing nano-materials - particles manufactured at the scale of atoms and molecules.
"The Government is actively developing an appropriate regulatory framework for nanotechnology," Senator Carr said.
The effort was part of a review of the nation's innovation system and the work of the remaining two years of theNational Nanotechnology Strategy, originally funded for four years by the previous government, he said.
"One of the key goals ... is to address the regulatory requirements in relation to the potential health, safety and environmental impacts of technology," Senator Carr said.
The concern is that materials may behave in novel ways at the nano scale, posing unknown risks to human and environmental health.
The statement from Senator Carr - the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research - came as environment group Friends of the Earth (FOE) released a review of applications and potential risks of nanotechnology in food and agriculture.
The FOE report found that 104 foods, food packaging and agricultural products containing nano-materials were on sale internationally. It also found nano-products were sold in Australia, despite assurances from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.
"We know manufactured nano-materials are already in some products found on Australian supermarket shelves and used in Australian kitchens," said report co-author Georgia Miller.
Senator Carr welcomed the report and said he and Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, would meet representatives of FOE this week.