News releases

No Nanotech in Food or Agriculture

Posted Oct. 30, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

Contact:
Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth U.S.: 202-222-0735

Peter Rossman, International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers: + 41 22 793 22 33 or peter.rossman@iuf.org

12 Million Union Members Call for Moratorium on Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture

In the Media:
The International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers (IUF) called for a moratorium on the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture in a resolution passed during their March meetings in Geneva. This first of its kind resolution joins a growing chorus of opposition to the rapid and unregulated introduction of nanotechnology into the marketplace. The IUF represents workers in more than 300 unions in 120 countries. The text of the union's resolution is reproduced in full below.

"This groundbreaking resolution is a strong rebuke to the reckless, haphazard development and commercialization of nanotechnology in food and consumer products," said Friends of the Earth U.S. Health and Environment Campaigner Ian Illuminato. "This should serve as a wake-up call to industry and policymakers about growing health and environmental concerns of nanotechnology."

Nanotechnology is an emerging field that involves the manipulation of materials and systems at the scale of atoms and molecules. There is a growing body of evidence showing that this new technology poses unpredictable and serious risks to human health and the environment. According to the Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group, there are more than 300 nano food products now available world-wide, although very few of these are labeled as "nano."

The United Kingdom's Royal Society has called for factories and research laboratories to treat nanomaterials as hazardous materials, and for scientific authorities to test all products containing nanotechnology for safety prior to commercial use. Nanotechnology is not currently subject to safety testing, labeling, or other regulations in the U.S. or in other parts of the world.

"By neglecting to effectively regulate and thoroughly test nanotechnology, governments are putting workers, the public, and the environment at risk," said Illuminato. "Policy makers and industry should welcome workers' concern for safety. A close assessment of the impacts of nanotechnology on human and environmental health is necessary to ensure the safety of both workers and consumers."

The IUF resolution also contains strong concerns about the social implications of nanotechnology's use in food and agriculture. The IUF also calls for the World Trade Organization to "suspend the grant of patents related to nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until the countries affected and social movements can carry out an evaluation of their impact."

Resolution on nanotechnology passed by International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers at the 25th IUF Congress meeting in Geneva, March 19-22, 2007

Considering:

  • That we are in a world in which science is advancing faster than society, a world driven by business profit where nanotechnology (NT) is launching products on the market before society has the opportunity to analyse their effects.

     

  • That civil society and social movements must embark on a broad debate on NT and its economic, environmental, social and health implications. We must not fall into the error of accepting that discussions of NT should be left in the hands of "experts".

     

  • The 25th IUF Congress meeting in Geneva, March 19-22, 2007

Resolves:

  1. To mobilize our affiliated organizations and urge them to discuss with the rest of society and governments the possible consequences of NT.

     

  2. To demand that governments and the international organizations concerned apply the Principle of Precaution, prohibiting the sale of food, beverages and fodder, and all agricultural inputs which contain nanotechnology, until it is shown that they are safe and to approve an international system of regulation specifically designed to analyse these products.

     

  3. To demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) suspend the grant of patents related to nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until the countries affected and social movements can carry out an evaluation of their impact.

     

  4. To demand that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) update the Codex Alimentarius, taking into account the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture.

     

  5. The International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers (IUF) called for a moratorium on the use of nanotechnology in food and agriculture in a resolution passed during their March meetings in Geneva. This first of its kind resolution joins a growing chorus of opposition to the rapid and unregulated introduction of nanotechnology into the marketplace. The IUF represents workers in more than 300 unions in 120 countries.

     

  6. To request the WHO to initiate short and long-term studies into the potential effects of nanotechnology - especially nanoparticles - on the health of the technicians and workers that produce them, users and consumers.

     

  7. To request the International Labour Organization (ILO) to carry out an urgent study into the possible impact of nanotechnology on conditions of work and employment in agriculture and in the food industry. Following completion of the study, a Tripartite Conference on the subject must be convened as soon as possible.

Submitted by the 13th Conference of Rel-UITA

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