House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee

Call for Evidence: Nanotechnologies and Food

The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee has appointed a Sub-Committee, chaired by Lord Krebs, to investigate the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector. The Committee intends to focus on the following areas: food products, additives and supplements; food contact packaging; food manufacturing processes; animal feed; pesticides and fertilisers; and products that may come into contact with food, such as food containers and cooking utensils.

The Committee does not propose to restrict the evidence it receives by limiting witnesses to a strict definition of nanotechnologies or nanomaterials. We would welcome evidence on the use of both manufactured and naturally occurring nanotechnologies and nanomaterials.

The Committee will not be considering what happens to nanotechnologies and nanomaterials when they become waste products, or their potential impact on the environment.

The Committee invites evidence on the following questions. Submissions are not required to cover all questions. The deadline for written evidence submissions is Friday 13 March 2009.

State of the science and its current use in the food sector

  • What are the main potential applications and benefits of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector, either in products or in the food production process?
  • What is the current state of the market for, and the use of, food products and food production processes involving nanotechnologies or nanomaterials, either abroad or in the UK?
  • What might the 'next-generation' of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials look like? How might they be applied in the food sector, and when might they enter the market?
  • What is the current state of research and development in the UK regarding nanotechnologies and nanomaterials which have or may have an application within the food sector? How does it compare to research and development in other countries?
  • What are the barriers to the development of new nano-products or processes in the food sector?

Health and safety

  • What is the current state of scientific knowledge about the risks posed to consumers by the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector? In which areas does our understanding need to be developed?
  • Is research funding into the health and safety implications of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector sufficient? Are current funding mechanisms fit for purpose?
  • Can current risk assessment frameworks within the food sector adequately assess the risks of exposure to nanotechnologies and nanomaterials for consumers? If not, what amendments are necessary?
  • Are the risks associated with the presence of naturally occurring nanomaterials in food products any different to those relating to manufactured nanomaterials? Should both types of nanomaterials be treated the same for regulatory purposes?

Regulatory framework

  • Is the regulatory framework for nanotechnologies and nanomaterials fit for purpose? How well are imported food products containing nanotechnologies and nanomaterials regulated?
  • How effective is voluntary self-regulation either in the UK or EU or at an international level? What is the take up by companies working in the food sector?
  • Will current regulations be able adequately to control the next generation of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials?
  • Is there any inter-governmental co-operation on regulations and standards? What lessons can be learned from regulatory systems in other countries?

Public engagement and consumer information

  • What is the current level of public awareness of nanotechnologies, and the issues surrounding the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector? What is the public perception of the use of such technologies and materials?
  • How effective have the Government, industry and other stakeholders been in engaging and informing the public on these issues? How can the public best be engaged in future?
  • What lessons can be learned from public engagement activities that have taken place during the development of other new technologies?
  • Should consumers be provided with information on the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in food products?

The Committee would also be interested to hear about any other issues not already covered by this call for evidence that are relevant to the scope of the inquiry.

For further information on the inquiry please contact Antony Willott, Clerk to Sub-Committee I, either by telephone: 020 7219 6612 or email: willotta@parliament.uk

The Committee will hold public meetings from spring 2009 and the Committee's report will be published in the autumn of 2009.

Submissions should be sent to:

Antony Willott
Clerk of Science and Technology Sub-Committee I
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

and preferably by email to: willotta@parliament.uk

Please ensure that you include relevant contact details. Evidence should be attributed and dated, with a note of your name and position, and should state whether it is submitted on an individual or corporate basis.

Short submissions are preferred; longer submissions (more than 6 pages) should include a summary. Hard copy should be clearly printed or typed on single sides of A4 paper, unstapled. Paragraphs should be numbered.

Evidence should be prepared specifically for this inquiry. Witnesses are encouraged to focus on those issues of which they have particular knowledge or experience€”submissions are not required to cover all questions.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed, published electronically or circulated by the Committee at any stage. If your evidence is not printed, it will in due course be made available to the public in the Parliamentary Archives.

You may in addition publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you should indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. If a submission is substantially the same as work that has already been published or disseminated for some other purpose, or is deemed not to be relevant to the inquiry, it will not be treated as formal evidence.

Personal contact details supplied to the Committee will be removed from evidence before publication and from the copy deposited in the Archives. However, personal contact details will be retained by the Committee Office and used for specific purposes relating to the Committee's work, for instance to seek additional information or to send copies of the Committee's Report.

The Committee will invite some of those who submit written evidence to give oral evidence at Westminster. Transcripts of such evidence will be published.

You can follow the progress of the inquiry via the Science and Technology Committee web pages, accessed from http://www.parliament.uk/hlscience.