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Nanotechnology and Biosensors
Department of Agricultural Economics
Nanoscale science, engineering and technology (nanotechnology) have great potential for application to the food and agricultural systems. The novel physical, chemical, and biological properties of systems with structural features in the length scale for nanotechnology (1-100 nanometers) can allow the development of a new understanding of biological and physical phenomena in agricultural and food systems.
In addition, nanotechnology allows scientists to measure, control, and manipulate matter at the nanoscale to change those properties and functions to the benefit of these systems. The USDA through the CSREES (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/) has identified the following programmatic areas for potential program emphasis: nanosensors; identity preservation and historical tracking of products; smart treatment of delivery systems; novel tools; nanomaterials; agro-environment; and education.
Nanotechnology will play a major role in agricultural and food biosecurity, food and nutritional quality and safety, plant and animal disease detection and treatment delivery systems, new tools for molecular and cellular biology, new and better materials of agricultural origins, energy production and efficiency, and protection of the environment. Agricultural and food producers should gain a more competitive position through the application of nanotechnology and in the long-term consumers will benefit from the advances in nanotechnology that allow a competitive, innovative domestic agricultural and food system and provide methods for increased safety and nutrition of food products. Nanotechnology will also play a major role in assisting developing countries through enhancements in agricultural productivity and food processing and storage.
Despite the strong support for nanotechnology, however, several groups have expressed concern regarding the societal impacts of the application of nanotechnology to food and agricultural systems and have recommended that the potential economic, environmental, safety and health impacts of nanotechnology should also be investigated. To achieve the knowledge needed for successful application of nanotechnology to food, agricultural and biological systems, multi- and cross-disciplinary approaches must be developed that include not only engineering, biological sciences and chemistry, but the social sciences as well.
The collaborative structure of NC-1031 will enable the stations to share knowledge and educational and research facilities to achieve these collaborative approaches. NC-1031 will play an important role in keeping US agricultural and food producers in the forefront of the application of nanotechnology in the world and assure that it is applied to the benefit of the total food and agricultural system as well as society.
This project brings together 12 cooperating stations from across the US and most members of NC-1031 serve as principal investigators on one of the CRIS projects identified. NC-1031 does not duplicate any other multistate research project and is currently the only such project that integrates several disciplines in the area of nanotechnology.
2010 Project Description
The Hatch/Multistate project has identified the following programmatic areas for potential program emphasis: nanosensors; identify preservation and historical tracking of products, smart treatment of delivery systems; novel tools; nanomaterials; agro-environment; and education. We recognize that nanotechnology will play a major role in agricultural and food biosecurity, food and nutritional quality and safety, plant and animal disease detection and treatment delivery systems, new tools for molecular and cellular biology, new and better materials of agricultural origins, energy production and efficiency, and protection of the environment. We focus on the economics of agricultural nanotechnology.
Over the past year, we have learned from a small scale survey of issues related to nano-foods. We sent the survey to randomly selected individuals in Kentucky and were able to collect 150 completed surveys. We have analyzed these data, which will give us guidance for next stage. We plan to participate in several national and regional meetings in the near future to present our results and seek further collaboration. One PhD student has recently joined the research and we have started a comprehensive summary of relevant literature.
Through our research and preliminary summary of existing literature we found that very little is known by the public about nano-food despite the large investment from many entities in the society. We verified the need for future studies. With the contribution of a second-year PhD student in the group, we now are developing a large scale survey on these issues, with the focus on public perception and risks.