CHAPTER 4: Public Perceptions of Nanotechnologies: Lessons from Genetically Modified Foods
Published:17 May 2017
This chapter focuses on the public perception of the applications of nanotechnology in food. It covers public perception surveys, the positions of various organizations—both for and against—methods of engaging the public, its regulation and possible ways forward. The most striking aspects of the public’s perceptions of nanotechnology in food since the first version of this chapter in April 2009 are how the debate about it remains where it was then, summed up as knowing very little about it coupled with “wariness, unease, uncertainty, and sometimes outright negativity.” In this, they share a great deal with attitudes to genetically modified (GM) foods. An absolute condition for the acceptance of a new technology is the recognition of its benefits by consumers. One of the most striking aspects of this debate is the way in which the activities of campaigning non-governmental organizations have waxed and, more recently, waned. Again strikingly, earlier attempts at public consultation were abandoned after being found to be ineffective or even greeted with antagonism. Food applications of nanotechnology fall under stringent general food regulations and specific guidelines have been issued. This chapter concludes by outlining many ways for effective public communication and suggesting that this is the key to the way forward.