Nanoparticles are being widely used in agriculture — but are they properly tested for safety?

An article just published (Nanoparticle effects on soybean growth Aug 14 2012) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reports on research looking at soybean susceptibility to manufactured nanomaterials.  The researchers found evidence for adverse effects in terms of food quality and soil fertility interruption.

” Based on previously published hydroponic plant, planktonic bacterial, and soil microbial community research, manufactured nanomaterial (MNM) environmental buildup could profoundly alter soil-based food crop quality and yield. However, thus far, no single study has at once examined the full implications, as no studies have involved growing plants to full maturity in MNM-contaminated field soil. We have done so for soybean, a major global commodity crop, using farm soil amended with two high-production metal oxide MNMs (nano-CeO2 and -ZnO). The results provide a clear, but unfortunate, view of what could arise over the long term: (i) for nano-ZnO, component metal was taken up and distributed throughout edible plant tissues; (ii) for nano-CeO2, plant growth and yield diminished, but also (iii) nitrogen fixation—a major ecosystem service of leguminous crops—was shut down at high nano-CeO2 concentration. Juxtaposed against widespread land application of wastewater treatment biosolids to food crops, these findings forewarn of agriculturally associated human and environmental risks from the accelerating use of MNMs.

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