(NaturalNews) The food industry is being too secretive about the extent to which it has adopted nanotechnology, according to a report by the United Kingdom's House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
The industry is "very reluctant to put its head above the parapet and be open about research on nanotechnology," said study chairperson Lord John Krebs.
"They got their fingers burnt over the use of GM crops and so they want to keep a low profile on this issue. We believe that they should adopt exactly the opposite approach. If you want to build confidence you should be open rather than secretive."
Nanotechnology refers to the practice of manipulating particles on the scale of one-billionth of a meter. Particles of this size behave in a fundamentally different fashion than they do on the more familiar scale, producing a wide variety of novel applications. Because nanoparticles are not currently regulated any differently than larger particles, they are already making their way into consumer products, from sunscreens and cosmetics to clothing and sporting goods. Their industrial and medical uses are also being explored.
The food industry is investigating ways that nanotechnology can be used for applications such as flavor or even nutritional enhancement, but has taken advantage of the regulatory loophole to keep these practices secret.
It is "regrettable that the food industry [is] refusing to talk about its work in the area," the report says.
According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnolgies, there are at least 84 food-related products making use of nanotechnology already. Yet due to industry secrecy, such numbers are necessarily speculative and probably underestimates.
"We are not clear what is out there in use at the moment," Krebs said.
The report estimates that the nanotechnology market will balloon from its current value of $410 million to more than $4.1 billion in just the next two years.