The latest news from academia, regulators
research labs and other things of interest
Posted: May 13, 2008
Rumours suggest no need for nanotechnology regulations
(Nanowerk News) Forthcoming advice will be against establishing regulations specific to nanotechnology, suggest rumours circulating in the political press.
According to EurActiv, a commission official has said that a document due for publication this spring will argue that no new specific regulation is needed for nanotechnology as the related health and environmental risks are already covered by current EU legislation.
However, no one from the Commission could be reached to verify this statement.
Any such decision will depend on the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) risk assessment on nanotechnology, due for completion this summer. EFSA said it could not comment on what the probable outcome would be and whether this would lead to the decision that no specific regulation is necessary.
Another board specific to nanotechnology, the EU-funded observatoryNano project, was launched at the start of April to address a lack of objective information on nanotechnology available to decision-makers in governments, industry and investors.
It will present science-based and economic analysis to help aid developments in nanotechnology.
A representative from the observatory also said the industry is awaiting an assessment report to see which direction nanotechnology regulation might take.
Nanotechnology uses tiny particles, measuring one billionth of a metre, for applications in areas such as food supplements and functional food ingredients as well as in food packaging.
Nanotechnology techniques include micro-encapsulation of antioxidants, minerals or fatty acids to increase body absorption of specific nutrients.
The project will examine data regarding scientific and technological trends and economic expectation, as well as assessing ethical and regulatory issues to provide an overview of all concerns surrounding nanotechnology.
It will liaise with a variety of international organisations, such as the European Patent Office and The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as European Technology Platforms, and other relevant EU-funded projects.
The project said this will "ensure that effort is not duplicated and that resource sharing and output are maximised".
One goal for the project is to establish a permanent European Observatory. Project co-ordinator, Mark Morrison, said: "At the same time, it will also review the objectives and governance of other similar projects and initiatives to advise its long-term strategy."
The project is funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).The total budget amounts to €4m for four years, and brings together 16 project partners from 10 countries.
EFSA began its risk assessment of nanotechnology in food applications last November.
The European Commission issued a mandate for a complete evaluation by 31 March but, because of the vast range of existing nanomaterials with differing properties and safety profiles, EFSA proposed to issue an initial scientific opinion by this summer.
It set up a working group of member state scientific experts to build on existing opinions of scientific advisory bodies and third countries.
Nanotechnology is not always popular with consumers, going against the increasing trend for natural clean-label products and the fear of artificial additives and modification. Also, very little is known about the health risks of nanotechnology.
Although the technology is still in its infancy, a recent survey carried out by 15 countries on the existing products made using nanotechnology determined there are 70 food related practical applications on the market.