Magazine article E Magazine

Stunted Growth: Nano-Pesticides Are Being hHailed as the Next Big Thing in Agriculture-But There Could Be Unintended Consequences

Magazine article E Magazine

Stunted Growth: Nano-Pesticides Are Being hHailed as the Next Big Thing in Agriculture-But There Could Be Unintended Consequences

Article excerpt

Among countless other applications, the emerging field of nanotechnology could revolutionize pesticide use. For instance, nanoencapsulated pesticides will have he ability to kill targeted insects only--reducing the effective dose when compared to traditional pesticides. Additionally, encapsulation can be absorbed by the surface of a plant to facilitate prolonged release--a step up from conventional pesticides which are often washed away in the rain.

But questions remain about the environmental and health impacts of these nano pesticides. Melanie Kah and Thilo Hofmann from the Department of Environmental Geosciences at the University of Vienna published an extensive analysis of this developing field of research in June 2012, and found that what's needed is a better understanding of the fate of both the food chain and the environment following nano-pesticide application.

"Nano-pesticide research is emerging at high speed at the agrochemical labs; however, this topic has not reached public awareness or state authorities so far, nor are any products available at the market," Hofmann said in a related release. "Since those nano-pesticides have new or enhanced properties, this will ... inevitably result in both new risks and new benefits to human and environmental health."

That following August, the University of California (UC) released a study that found soybeans grown in soil that contained the common nanoparticle cerium oxide (used to increase fuel combustion) had stunted growth. The researchers concluded that a greater use of synthetic fertilizers would likely be required to ensure adequate crop growth. Patricia Holden, a professor with the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the study's lead author, said that cerium oxide could accumulate in soil "near manufacturing sites where the materials are being made, or if there are spills. …

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