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Risk Anal. 2008 Aug;28(4):1081-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01071.x. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

Upstream oversight assessment for agrifood nanotechnology: a case studies approach.

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Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, at the Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Although nanotechnology is broadly receiving attention in public and academic circles, oversight issues associated with applications for agriculture and food remain largely unexplored. Agrifood nanotechnology is at a critical stage in which informed analysis can help shape funding priorities, risk assessment, and oversight activities. This analysis is designed to help society and policymakers anticipate and prepare for challenges posed by complicated, convergent applications of agrifood nanotechnology. The goal is to identify data, risk assessment, regulatory policy, and engagement needs for overseeing these products so they can be addressed prior to market entry. Our approach, termed upstream oversight assessment (UOA), has potential as a key element of anticipatory governance. It relies on distinct case studies of proposed applications of agrifood nanotechnology to highlight areas that need study and attention. As a tool for preparation, UOA anticipates the types and features of emerging applications; their endpoints of use in society; the extent to which users, workers, ecosystems, or consumers will be exposed; the nature of the material and its safety; whether and where the technologies might fit into current regulatory system(s); the strengths and weaknesses of the system(s) in light of these novel applications; and the possible social concerns related to oversight for them.

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