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Rosalyn Berne urges caution for nano in agriculture

Rosalyn Berne studies the ethics of nanotechnology. She said we don’t understand what happens to nano products used in agriculture, at the point when that product filled with nano particles washes into the soil.

Rosalyn Berne of the University of Virginia studies the ethics of nanotechnology, the manipulation of atoms to create new materials. She spoke with EarthSky about nanotechnology as applied to agriculture.

Rosalyn Berne: For example, I learned about a product that could be sprayed onto plants that in effect accelerates the photosynthesis process. Now that sounds like something that we should not hesitate to do, because it means that we’ll get plants growing faster, bigger, more robust.

But Berne said there is more to consider.

Rosalyn Berne: But what we don’t understand is what happens to that product if and when it washes into the soil, goes down stream, is absorbed by other species.

Berne said ecosytems are complex and she urges caution.

Rosalyn Berne: What we do may have effects that we cannot in any way imagine when we’re so busy creating new processes and introducing new kinds of procedures to agriculture. And so it is very important that we take our time.

Thanks today to the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service National Research Initiative Program and Cornell University.

Our thanks to:
Rosalyn W. Berne
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

Jorge Salazar

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