Soil Association says nanotech cannot be defined as organic

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soil association, Nanotechnology, Organic food

The UK-based Soil Association has ruled that it will not give its
organic certification to any man-made nanomaterials included in
health and beauty products.

The organisation stressed that its ban on the use of such materials particularly underlined beauty products, but also applied to food and textiles, stating that it was taking action 'against this hazardous, potentially toxic technology that poses a serious new threat to human health'. The ban means that the organisation will not allow any product containing man-made nano particles to bear its globally recognised certification and labelling, which is pro-organic. The move also makes the Soil Association the first body in the world to take regulatory action against nanoparticles in an effort to 'safeguard the public'. "We are deeply concerned at the government's failure to follow scientific advice and regulate products,"​ said Gundula Azeez, Soil Association policy manager. "There should be an immediate freeze on the commercial release of nanomaterials until there is a sound body of scientific research into all the health impacts,"​ Azeez added. The association refers to research carried out on behalf of the UK government by the Royal Society and the Academy of Engineering in 2004, which pointed out that nano developed materials should be treated as new chemicals and should be subject to thorough safety testing before being commercially launched. In a press statement the organisation pointed out that some of the world's biggest beauty players - naming in particular Unilever, Lancome, Boots and L'Oreal - were investing billions in the technology. However, it also underlined the fact that, although there are now numerous beauty products on the market that currently contain man-made nano particles, none of these products are required to have labelling warning of the potential dangers. The move was endorsed by other environmental bodies, including the Canada-based ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion). "We welcome this sensible move by the Soil Association and encourage other certifiers, companies and governments to follow their lead,"​ said Jim Thomas, ETC spokesperson. "A decade ago the Soil Association led the way in creating a safe alternative to GM crops when they declared organic production to be GM-free and now they are trailblazing again - acting to protect the public from potential risks of engineered nanoparticles,"​ Thomas added. ​ The Soil Association's move goes one step further than the moratorium declared on the sale of nanotech sunscreens by Friends of the Earth back in August 2007. The environmental group said it wanted consumers to lobby personal care companies to label whether or not sunscreens contained man-made nanoparticles. Although the move to ban man-made nano particles from organic certified beauty products will not come as much of a surprise, the move is likely to prompt the industry to defend the incorporation of the technology in personal care products. At the heart of the defense is the fact that scientists claim to have devoted thousands of hours of extensive research and development that is claimed to conclusively proved the safety of the technology before it hits retail shelves.

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