TranSTEP & nano food in the Netherlands

Nanotechnology is the science and technology of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, particular things that are less than 100 nanometers in size (for comparison, a human hair is about 60-80,000 nanometers wide). According to experts in the area of food technology, nanotechnology could pave the way for ingredients that are adapted for better taste or digestion, to address specific nutrition needs (e.g. babies, elderly or patients), among many other applications in the domain of food and agriculture that would be beneficial for public health and sustainability. However, the application of this evolving technology also raises concerns: not much is known about |the long term (side)effects of nanoparticles and nanostructures on the environment and human health. Besides such uncertainties concerning health and environmental risks there are many questions whether consumers will accept nanofood products and, in a broader sense, whether this technology is perceived as a sound innovation to address societal needs. Might people decline food with nanotechnology applications because they conceive it as unnatural? This makes nanofood a challenging topic for different stakeholders (e.g. politicians, administrators, enterprises, NGO’s and consumers). Here we outline the ways in which our integrated ‘TranSTEP’ approach, which aims to articulate perspectives from different assessment domains and disciplines, might support assessment and decision making processes for developing nanofood in the Netherlands.

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