Chemical companies now adding untested nanoparticles to pesticide formulas

Monday, January 13, 2014 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: nanoparticles, pesticides, chemical companies

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(NaturalNews) Industrial agriculture is undergoing yet another major transformation that will amass even more corporate control over the food supply, this time with regard to the composition of chemical pesticides. Untested nanoparticles, according to new research, are now turning up in pesticide formulas being developed by Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer CropScience and others, even though the long-term safety of these novel substances has never been proven.

Since their advent in the early 21st century, nanoparticles have been increasingly turning up in all sorts of consumer products, food packaging, seeds and now the chemicals routinely applied to conventional and genetically modified (GM) crops. Though there exists no regulations governing the use of nanotechnology, nanoparticles are quietly making their way into virtually everything that humans come into contact with, including our food supply.

"The agri-chemical and information technology industries have shifted down to the nano-scale to produce new agricultural chemicals, seeds and livestock with novel functions and capabilities, as well as new systems of farm monitoring and management," explains the Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP). "Syngenta, BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Cargill and Monsanto are all undertaking research and commercialization in these areas."

The purpose of applying nanotechnology to these existing chemical technologies, according to the chemical industry, is to improve the effectiveness of pesticides and herbicides, which are increasingly becoming obsolete due to the rise of chemical-resistant "superbugs" and "superweeds." By reducing the size of various chemical compounds to the nano-scale, in other words, it is assumed that these same compounds can be made more effective.

Biological activities of nanoparticles a Pandora's box of unpredictability

But nano-scale materials are unpredictable and admittedly behave differently than their parent particles. Because of this, there is no way to truly know how nanoparticles as used in chemical pesticides, which already pose considerable threats to the environment and human health, are going to affect those who come into contact with them. It is also unclear how these unnatural compounds will affect plants and the soils in which they grow.

"Nano-scale particles exhibit novel character traits (including different chemical reactivity, bioactivity and absorption capacity), compared to the same material in its bulk form," explains IFDP. "Nanomaterials are introducing new and unexpected forms of pollution. The size, dissolvability and other novel characteristics of nanomaterials enable them to readily contaminate soils, waterways and food chains, posing new and little understood ecological risks."

These same characteristics translate into potential problems for human health, as nanoparticles penetrate, absorb and metabolize differently than the normal-sized particles from which they are derived. Research conducted by the group Friends of the Earth, for instance, found that some nanoparticles are capable of absorbing directly into the bloodstream upon inhalation.

"Scientific evidence demonstrates nanoparticles are able to cross cellular barriers (including the stomach wall), increasing absorption rates and bioavailability," adds IFDP. "There is also evidence demonstrating nanoparticles are cytotoxic (i.e. toxic to cells)."

With all this in mind, the thought of indiscriminately spraying chemical solutions loaded with nanoparticles all over our food crops is disturbing. The way nanoparticles behave is so foreign to almost everything we know about how normal particles function that using them is nothing short of irresponsible, at best. Worse is the fact that nanoparticles only provide short-term solutions to the much greater problems of industrial agriculture, which in and of itself is a recipe for disaster.

"In many instances, nano-innovations offer short term techno-fixes to the problems facing modern industrial agriculture and food systems," concludes IFDP. "At the same time, these applications threaten to further concentrate corporate ownership and control of large sections of food production systems and markets, and to increase inequalities and power imbalances across the food system."

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