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       Agriculture and Food 04/05/2010
Novel foods: risk assessment for nanofoods

Foods produced by nanotechnology should undergo specific risk assessment before being put on the European market and should not be included on the EU's list of novel foods (foods not on the market before May 1997) until then, according to Parliament's Environment Committee.


The Committee voted 4 May that food produced using nanotechnology should be excluded from the novel food list, and thus the EU market, until the possible health effects of nano production can be fully assessed.


An example of nanotechnology in food production is a wax-like nano-coating on fruits and vegetables to extend shelf life. It can also be used in salad dressings and sauces to make them pour more easily. Some of the world's largest food manufacturers - including European companies - are researching nanotechnology for food applications. But, according to the European Commission, there are currently no nano-foods on the EU market.


Kartika Liotard, a Dutch member of left-leaning GUE/NGL, who is steering the proposals through the EP said, "we have insisted that no food products made by nanotechnology or containing nanoparticles will be put on the market unless they have undergone a validated risk assessment and are proven to be safe."


No to food from cloned animals


The Committee voted strongly in favour of proposals to simplify and centralise the proposal for authorising novel foods, which can also include foods not traditionally consumed in the EU. The report is due to go to plenary in July.


However, it kept up its opposition to the use of food derived from cloned animals and their descendants and asked the Commission to come up with a separate proposal prohibiting it. "To our knowledge, today there is no food produced from cloned animals in the European market, and that is how the Parliament wants it to be in the future," said Ms Liotard. "The Commission is trying to put forward legislation on this contentious issue without even a public debate. We demand this matter be dealt with in a separate regulation."


Due to cost and rarity, cloned animals are not used for food. They are usually derived from the best specimens to help breed elite animals by introducing desirable traits into herds more rapidly than is possible via conventional breeding. The only animals actually used for food would be the clones' offspring.


"We want to exclude food from the descendants of cloned animals because they are the result of this very contentious procedure," Ms Liotard said. We aim to prevent unnecessary harm to animals and if we do not want animals cloned for food, we also do not want descendants of these clones on the market."


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