Nanotechnology is making progress


WASHINGTON – Thanks to nanotechnology, tomorrow’s food will be designed by shaping molecules and atoms.
Food will be wrapped in “smart” safety packaging that can detect spoilage or harmful contaminants. Future products will enhance and adjust their color, flavor, or nutrient content to accommodate each consumer’s taste or health needs.
Benefits. And in agriculture, nanotechnology promises to reduce pesticide use, improve plant and animal breeding, and create new nano-bioindustrial products.
According to the Helmut Kaiser Consultancy, the nanotech food market is growing rapidly and will reach over $20 billion by 2010 – about three times its current size. A recent study by Cientifica found more than 150 nanotechnology applications in the food industry at present, with some of the world’s biggest companies – like Altria, Nestle, Kraft, Heinz and Unilever – involved in nanotechnology research and development.
Investing. The U.S. government is investing in nanotech agrifood as a part of its annual $1.2 billion nanotechnology research budget. For the first time, a new report analyzes the publicly available data on federally funded research projects in agrifood nanotechnology.
The report estimates possible areas and time frames for future nanotechnology-based food and agriculture applications. It takes an early look at potential benefits and risks, and it explores possible areas and needs for environmental, health and safety oversight.
Today’s nanotech food products include a new variety of canola oil containing tiny materials that can block cholesterol from entering the bloodstream, and a chocolate milkshake that supposedly tastes better and is more nutritious than conventional shakes – thanks to the unusual properties of a new ingredient that is 100,000 smaller than a grain of sand.
Sticking together. Nanoscale droplets of a new substance have been added to pesticides so formulations that once had to be shaken every two hours to prevent ingredients from separating now hold together for up to one year.
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually one to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.