Friday

23rd Oct 2020

Nanoparticles already on EU shelves warn green groups

Environmental groups are warning that advances in the science of nanotechnology are racing ahead of public policy with neither consumers, regulators nor scientists fully aware of the toxicity of so-called nanoparticles.

They are further calling on the European Union to introduce mandatory labelling on all products that contain them and develop strict safety laws on the basis of health and environmental risk assessment.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

A new report from Friends of the Earth groups in Brussels, Germany, the US and Australia has identified at least 104 food and agricultural products containing manufactured nanomaterials, or produced using nanotechnology, which are already on sale in the European Union, and warns that consumers are unknowingly ingesting them, despite concerns about the toxicity risks of nanomaterials.

Helen Holder, coordinator of the Food and Farming campaign at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Europeans should not be exposed to potentially toxic materials in their food and food packaging until proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety."

"In the absence of proper safety regulations or mandatory labelling, consumers are being left in the dark about the products they are consuming and are unknowingly putting their health and the environment at risk," she added.

The report, Out of the laboratory and on to our plates, which comes out a few weeks in advance of an expected European Commission proposal on the regulation of nanotechnology, argues that the current regulations are insufficient and that a more precautionary approach is required.

Although not opposed to nanotechnology in principle, the groups are calling on European policy-makers to adopt precautionary legislation to manage potential risks caused by the use of the new materials.

Currently in Europe, there is as yet no nantechnology-specific regulation or safety testing required before nanomaterials can be used in food, packaging or agriculture. However, a forthcoming communication from the commission will offer a review of European legislation in relation to nanotechnologies.

Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at a scale of 100 nanometres or smaller – the levels of atoms and molecules, is already used in the manufacture of products such as nutritional supplements, cling wrap and containers, antibacterial kitchenware, processed meats, chocolate drinks, baby food and chemicals used in agriculture.

Nanotechnology engineers say that a new era of food free of the negative effects of fatty or sugary foods is upon us, enthusing that future generations of humanity will be able to eat any kind of food no matter how rich or salty or high in cholesterol, thanks to the new science of the very small.

In response to the report, the commission said that it is striving to increase the awareness to food business operators of their legal obligations, in regards to nanotechnologies. However, the commission does feel that new legislation is necessary.

"The existing regulatory framework is already adequate to cover potential risks of nanotechnology based products," said Nina Papadoulaki, the spokesperson for health commissioner Androula Vassiliou. Instead, "the European Commission is focusing its efforts on the effective implementation of existing legislation [such as] risk assessment, data and test requirements, and specific guidance."

The commission has also requested a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority on the risk arising from nanoscience and nanotechnologies on food and feed safety.

In 2004, the UK's Royal Society – the UK's academy of sciences – issued a report commissioned by the British government on the subject recommending that while nanotechnology may offer many benefits both now and in the future, there was an immediate need for research to address uncertainties about the health and environmental effects of nanoparticles. It also recommended the introduction of regulation to control exposure to nanoparticles.

A spokesperson for the Royal Society said: "A chemical in its nano form can have different properties to the same chemical in its larger form. It's these properties that make nanomaterials so exciting and are what manufacturers are exploiting for their products.

"However, to ensure that we properly protect people from any negative effects, it is crucial that all relevant regulatory bodies keep existing regulations under review. This is particularly important as there are already many products containing nanomaterials on the shelves, and many more expected in the future."

Nanofoods - Coming to a plate near you?

Chocolate that doesn't make you fat. Drinks designed by the press of a button. 'Meat' made from plant protein. Welcome to nanofoods - a brave new world that industry is keen to exploit. But will Europeans ever take to it?

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

EU budget talks suspended in fight for new funds

MEPs are requesting additional, new funding of €39bn for 15 EU programs. The German presidency argues that budget ceilings, agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in July, will be impossible to change without a new leaders' meeting.

EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link

Divisions among EU governments remain between those who want to suspend EU funds if rule of law is not respected, and those who want to narrow down conditionality.

MEPs warn of 'significant gaps' in budget talks

The budget committee chair said the European Parliament expects tangible improvements to the package in its talks with member states - while the German minister argued that the EU leaders' deal was difficult enough.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link

Divisions among EU governments remain between those who want to suspend EU funds if rule of law is not respected, and those who want to narrow down conditionality.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us