Nanotechnology in Agriculture (open access)


Anne Ingeborg Myhr has in collaboration with Bjorn Myskja from NTNU published on nanotechnology in agriculture in a encyclopedia of ethics in food and agriculture. The publication is available at Springer Reference.


Climate change and increased global population give rise to a special emphasis on how agriculture can expand production under changing conditions. Agriculture has also seen radical changes the last century with a turn towards research-based, industrialized agriculture with large scale monocultures, mechanisation, increased irrigation, use of artificial fertilizers and pest control systems, combined with a change from local towards export oriented making of products to be used for food, feed, fuel and fibre. Biotechnology-based interventions such as systematic breeding, as witnessed in the Green Revolution, and genetic modification has led to commercially successful but politically controversial herbicide tolerant and pest resilient varieties of major crops, with promises of a wide range of new varieties in the years to come. In recent years nanotechnology methods and products have been added to the techno-scientific possibilities of improvements to agricultural production.

As yet, there are few if any commercially available products, but nanotechnology holds promises for increasing efficiency within animal and plant breeding, for increased nutritional value, new animal and production inputs as feed additives, chemicals and pesticides, for new and more efficient means for diagnosis and surveillance of diseases, as well as means for precision farming techniques. Moreover, also with importance for agriculture is the possibility for using nanosensors for detecting and removing salt and pollutants from water and soil. Here some of these new developments will be briefly presented, withfocus mainly on the agriculture production system and not on food products as such (packaging, detection of contaminants and pathogens, nano barcodes etc.). New emerging technologies as nanotechnology can be used for solving problems as well as enhancing production and efficiency but do also raise questions with regard to food and environmental safety, socio-economic, ethical and regulatory issues that will be highlighted.

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