According to the recent policy brief by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on Agriculture, Food, and Water Nanotechnologies for the Poor, the field of nanotechnology – research and development that involves measuring and manipulating matter at the atomic, molecular and supra-molecular levels – could lead to the development of potentially revolutionary technologies across industries including agriculture and food.
Potential technologies in the pipeline have the potential to make agriculture more efficient, increase yields and product quality, thus helping to tackle the problem of nutrition insecurity. For example, nanoporous materials capable of storing water and slowly releasing it during times of drought could increase yields, and nanoscale agrichemical formulations can increase efficiency and decrease losses into the environment.
However, the policy brief concludes that if we are to ensure that these promising nanotechnologies reach the global poor, more work still needs to be carried out to overcome challenges such as risk perceptions, market acceptance, cost and access and market risks.
According to IFPRI, more information needs to be collected around the potential economic benefits and risks associated with nanotech adoption, and assessments of specific technologies could help governments to make the appropriate policy decisions regarding potential safety, social and economic effects.