More study needed on effects of nanoparticles on food

While research on the food system effects of nanomaterials is still in early stages, the use of manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) is increasing in all kinds of products. To quote the US authors of a new study on soybean susceptibility to manufactured nanomaterials, “these findings forewarn of agriculturally associated human and environmental risks from the accelerating use of MNMs.” The study has been  published ahead of print in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The scientists studied the effects of the high production nanomaterials cerium oxide, used in ceramics, in photosensitive glass, as a catalyst, to polish glass and stones, and in the walls of self-cleaning ovens as a catalyst during the high-temperature cleaning process, and zinc oxide, used in solar cells and sunscreens.

The results found that zinc from nano-ZnO is taken up and distributed throughout edible plant tissues and that nano-CeO2 caused plant growth and yield to diminish. Nitrogen fixation—a major ecosystem service of leguminous crops—was shut down at high nano-CeO2 concentrations.

Most likely pathway for transport of cesium oxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles to the food chain is believed to be through the spreading of sewage sludge on agricultural land. A recent study has raised a concern that zinc oxide nano-particles may cause cancer.

The full research paper is available at


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