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Science and Technology Committee Report on Nanotechnologies and Food (Government Response)

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

We are today laying before Parliament the Government’s response (Cm 7857) to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report on Nanotechnologies and Food, which was published on 8 January 2010.

Nanoscience and nanotechnologies have advanced in recent years to the stage where there are a range of innovative products on the market that contain nanomaterials, ranging from cosmetics to surface coatings for glass. While developments in the food industry are generally at an early stage, applications of nanotechnology in this sector have the potential to bring about benefits to both industry and consumers.

The Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry is therefore timely and their report provides a detailed and extremely thorough analysis on a range of issues including support for innovation, research into health and safety implications, regulation and public engagement.

The Government’s response welcomes the Committee’s report and its recommendations. Some of the issues that have been raised by the Committee are specific to food while others are wider in scope. The Food Standards Agency has therefore liaised closely with other Government Departments—the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills, and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—in considering the Committee’s recommendations and developing the overall response.

In several places the response cross-refers to the Government’s UK Nanotechnologies Strategy “Small Technologies, Great Opportunities”, which was published on 18 March 2010. The Government’s position on nanotechnologies is set out in the strategy as follows:

“The UK’s economy and consumers will benefit from the development of nanotechnologies through Government’s support of innovation and promotion of the use of these emerging and enabling technologies in a safe, responsible and sustainable way reflecting the needs of the public, industry and academia”.

This approach applies equally in the food sector, where the role of public engagement is of particular importance. The Committee rightly highlights the heightened public sensitivities about new food technologies and the value of effective public communication and openness. Therefore, in addition to taking forward the other recommendations in the report, the Food Standards Agency will be working closely with industry, consumer groups and other stakeholders to ensure that the public have accurate and impartial information about the way that nanotechnologies are being applied to food.

Today’s publication is in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.