Nevertheless, a boost may be at hand from a very small source, according to Policy Instruments to Support Green Growth in Agriculture.
Nanotechnologies (sometimes referred to as “molecular manufacturing”), which employ materials measured on the nano-scale–that’s about one-billionth of a metre–are leading to potentially revolutionary technologies in a variety of industries, including agriculture and food. Here, advances in nanotechnologies hold out the promise of fostering green growth by helping to increase productivity and improve the use of resources, reduce post-harvest loss, improve product quality and increase the competitiveness of agricultural producers. Nanotechnology can potentially benefit the agro-food sector in several key areas, including sustainable production, plant and animal health, food processing and packaging, as well as in reducing the environmental impact of agricultural operations.
Investment in countries, such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Switzerland, the US and countries of the European Union, has been growing, and a wide range of nanotechnology applications are currently being developed and commercialised.
But there are potential downsides too. Nanotechnologies could, in themselves, constitute a specific source of pollution, which may be more difficult to treat than conventional pollution. A study on nanopesticides used in the treatment of pears, for example, found that they entered the fruits more easily than standard pesticides. A fuller understanding of the impact of nanomaterials on health and the environment needs to be established if regulations are to cope with rapid advances in nanotechnology. In the context of green growth, these policy challenges highlight the importance of assessing the impact of nanotechnology from a life-cycle perspective that considers the full range of economic, environmental and societal implications today and in the future.
©OECD Observer No 297, Q4 2013