Current Food and Agricultural Regulations Need Reevaluation in light of Nanotechnology, Experts Argue
Abu Dhabi, May 26, 2010: A seminar on the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture and food sectors, held by Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, called for regulatory re-evaluation to ascertain whether the current laws governing food and agriculture are sufficient to deal with the new emerging developments like nanotechnology.
The speakers at the seminar stressed on the need for strengthening scientific research in the country as well as cooperation between research organizations and universities on the one hand and regulatory bodies like ADFCA on the other in light of the developments in science, especially fields like nanotechnology and synthetic biology.
Speakers pointed out that there is currently no mechanism available to test nanotechnology-produced foods and their risk implications for human and animal health. "What is needed is an umbrella body comprising representatives of all regulatory bodies in the country and major research organizations to delve deep into the implications of nanotechnology in various fields, such as food, agriculture and medicine. While nanotechnology offers many advantages and benefits, it may also pose several risks. Being a new field of enquiry, its implications have not been confirmed fully till now," they pointed out.
The research conducted in the country should be streamlined in a way that best serves the interests of the country, several speakers contested. "The advantages are many. For instance, nanotechnology can contribute to the development of the kind of crops most suitable for the weather, environment and soil of the UAE. But that demands streamlining research in that direction. We need to take a deep and hard look at our priorities and determine our research activities accordingly," argued Dr. Yousef Alhayek of the UAE University.
Dr. Anne Mackenzie of ADFCA said that nanotechnology had the potential to revolutionize food and agricultural production. "Nano-devices and materials for enhanced gene insertion and gene therapy in veterinary medicine can bring out a quantum leap in our efforts at improving animal health. Implementable self regulatory drug delivery systems can tackle diseases even before the symptoms appear. But all these call for improved funding from governments across the world to realize the true potential of this new scientific direction," she added.
Ahmed Kulaib Al Taniji, Executive Director, Food Safety and Animal Health Division of ADFCA who inaugurated the seminar, said the Authority was committed to collaborate with scientific bodies in the country to enhance our knowledge and capacity to address the opportunities and challenges posed by the advent of nanotechnologies. "We will make all efforts to take advantage of new scientific developments in order to strengthen food safety and security situation in the country. We will always keep our eyes and ears open to the minutest developments in these fields anywhere in the world," he stressed.
While Dr. Amal Al Ghaferi of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, who gave a lucid introduction to nanotechnology and its many benefits in various spheres, Dr. Salama Al Muhairi of ADFCA said it was important to remain alert to the negative impact of nanotechnology without turning away from its advantages. Dr. Abdellatif Eldaw of ADFCA also made a detailed presentation on the application of nanotechnology in food sector.
The seminar concluded on the note that nanotechnology is not a monolithic field of enquiry, but is a multi-disciplinary field with wide-reaching implications for a wide variety of spheres. The speakers at the seminar lauded the pioneering efforts being made in the UAE by Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in research into nanotechnology.