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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.
2011 Project Description
We have conducted a small scale survey of the nation on consumers' attitudes and perceptions on nanofood. Based on this Hatch/Multistate, several areas are particularly important for future development of nanotechnology and nanofoods:
- identify preservation and historical tracking of products,
- smart treatment of delivery systems;
- novel tools; nanomaterials;
- agro-environment; and
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. We have made several presentations regarding the results we have obtained over the years, such as the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association's (used to be known as the American Agricultural Economics Association) annual meetings, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association annual meetings, as well as within the department. We have established many contacts during the process which will help us further purse this area.
One of the PhD students is using this topic in the dissertation research. We expect to complete the dissertation within the next two years. Further grants and collaboration opportunities have also been pursued. We have submitted a seed grant application through the University of Kentucky research foundation. Large scale grants are being developed.
It is found that there is still much to be done in the area of nanotechnology in the field of agriculture. Our survey results show that only a small percentage of the general public even heard about nanotechnology or nanofood. When it comes down to the economic tradeoffs, individuals are skeptical about the food safety and environmental sustainability implications of nanotechnology. Through our research, we made connections with a large multidisciplinary group. The impacts to the academic community are clear that economics is an important and integrated part of any current and future research on nanotechnology. Two PhD students received training through this project. For the general public, our research shows that although technical in nature, nanotechnology does not only belong to the realm of academic discussion. Ordinary individuals' opinion should be consulted before any major decisions are made on nanotechnology and nanofoods.