Manufactured Nanomaterials, Agriculture, and Food: What are the Potential Interactions and Impacts?

Friday, May 9, 2014
10:00 am
Girvetz Hall 2320
Patricia Holden, Jorge Gardea-Torresdey

Professor Patricia A. Holden is a faculty member in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB, an investigator with the  UC Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), and a member of the CNS-UCSB Executive Committee.

Professor Jorge Gardea-Torresdey is the Dudley Chair of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Texas, El Paso and an investigator with the UC Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN).

Manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) are increasingly produced and used in consumer goods.  Model simulations by others indicate that MNMs in waste streams will substantially enter soils, e.g. via wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) processing of sewage into biosolids that are often applied to agricultural lands.  What are the potential implications of terrestrial deposition of MNMs, i.e. to agricultural processes and to the quality and quantity of the food supply?  Do plants uptake MNMs?  Do MNMs have other potential effects on plant-microbe interactions that could impact agriculture?  In a recent review by expert Jorge Gardea-Torresdey and colleagues, entitled “Trophic transfer, transformation, and impact of engineered nanomaterials in terrestrial environments” (ES&T, 2014, v48, pp2526-2540), research to date is considered.  Open questions concern the long term impacts of MNMs to agriculture and food quality, including from repeated applications of biosolids to farm soils.  Further, there is a need for research regarding the potential impacts of MNMs that are under development or production for direct application to plants and soils, i.e. for fertilization or pest control.  While a collaborative study in the UC CEIN (Priester et al., PNAS, 2012; Hernandez-Viezcas et al., ACS Nano, 2013; Peralta-Videa et al., Plant Physiol. Biochem, 2014) suggested the potential for impacts to an important commodity crop (soybean), many other agricultural crops are potentially exposed, and the effects therein are yet to be studied  (Gardea-Torresdey, ES&T, 2014).