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Nanotechnologies

Science and technology at the nanoscale promise to be among the most innovative fields in decades. Nanotechnologies allow for the possibility to control and modify material and systems at the nanoscale level to obtain significantly altered characteristics from those present at larger scale.

A number of emerging nanotechnologies seem to have the potential to provide significant benefits in various fields including the food, water and agriculture sectors. New and emerging applications such as water purification systems, rapid pathogen and chemical contaminant detection systems, and nano-enabled renewable energy technologies applied along the food chain are expected to provide developing countries with new tools to address some of the challenges to sustainable agricultural and irrigation development as well as food safety and food security.

Research and development on nanotechnologies have been growing worldwide both in the public and private sectors within developed as well as emerging countries. However it is important to ensure adequate upfront attention to some important issues that nanotechnologies pose to the global community.

  • FAO/WHO has developed and finalized a technical paper entitled “State of the art on the initiatives and activities relevant to risk assessment and risk management of nanotechnologies in the food and agriculture sectors" (July 2013). The FAO/WHO technical paper is available in English here.
  • FAO/WHO has convened a joint meeting on nanotechnologies in food and agriculture at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy on 27 March 2012. The final report is available in English here.
  • The potential implications of nanotechnologies on human health are still not fully understood and many countries have stressed the need for early consideration of the food safety implications of these technologies. In response to such requests, FAO and WHO held an Expert Meeting on the “Application of nanotechnologies in the food and agriculture sectors: potential food safety implications” in June 2009.  The final report is available in three languages [ EN | SP | FR ].
  • Environmental health, social and ethical implications, challenges for developing countries and the need for adequate upfront attention to nanotechnologies regulation are some of the crucial additional issues that need to be addressed at the international level, if the expected gains from nanotechnologies in the areas of food, agriculture and human health are to be realized. FAO in collaboration with the Government of Brazil organized an international conference as a forum for debate and discussion on new and emerging applications of nanotechnologies in food, water and agriculture. International Conference on Food and Agriculture: Applications of Nanotechnologies.