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Oh No! Now It's Nano!
And here I thought pesticides and GMOs were alarming enough. But it seems that Franken-food has an even scarier new sequel.
Scientists are experimenting with using nanotechnology in foods, or the ability to engineer foods at a molecular level. No one seems clear on health risks or long term impacts that nano food- engineering may have on consumers — which makes a lot of people (including me) extremely nervous.
The New York Times reports that the Food and Drug Administration is currently developing guidelines to regulate nanotechnology in foods and food additives. The FDA has an FAQ on their policies to date.
That's the good news. The bad news is that experts who are familiar with the issue are worried that the FDA doesn't necessarily have the bandwidth to effectively monitor changes and developments.
The larger, more terrifying problem is that the first generation of nanotech-food products are on the shelves right now, via food colorings and frying oil preservatives. And one day it could make M&M candies less likely to melt.
Meanwhile, large food companies, such as Kraft and Nestle, haven't disclosed how they're using nanotechnology, in part because they are worried about consumer reactions. And that sounds pretty worrisome to me. (I did, however, find an overview from a Kraft senior official.)
Scarier still is that no one seems to know how this brand-new technology might affect our health. Nor do we have any sense of the long-term consequences. The NY Times noted that, "troubling laboratory tests suggest some nanoscale particles may pose novel health risks by, for instance, slipping easily past barriers to the brain that keep larger particles out. Thus, the same attributes that could make the technology valuable for delivering drugs could also make it hazardous."
A few years ago, Greenpeace investigated some of the pros and cons and found that, like most evolving technologies, it's too soon to tell whether this will lead to more harm than good.
The truth is, I'm not I even sure I want to understand the science behind this. All I know for certain is that I just got the boost I needed to be more vigilant about my food choices.
When I heard about nanotechnology in relation to dinner, eating local and organic foods never sounded better.