Awareness and attitudes towards the emerging use of nanotechnology in the agri-food sector

Caroline E. Handford, Moira Dean, Michelle Spence, Maeve Henchion, Christopher T. Elliott, Katrina Campbell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Nanotechnology has relevance to applications in all areas of agri-food including agriculture, aquaculture, production, processing, packaging, safety and nutrition. Scientific literature indicates uncertainties in food safety aspects about using nanomaterials due to potential health risks. To date the agri-food industry's awareness and attitude towards nanotechnology have not been addressed. We surveyed the awareness and attitudes of agri-food organisations on the island of Ireland (IoI) with regards to nanotechnology. A total of 14 agri-food stakeholders were interviewed and 88 agri-food stakeholders responded to an on-line questionnaire. The findings indicate that the current awareness of nanotechnology applications in the agri-food sector on the IoI is low and respondents are neither positive nor negative towards agri-food applications of nanotechnology. Safer food, reduced waste and increased product shelf life were considered to be the most important benefits to the agri-food industry. Knowledge of practical examples of agri-food applications is limited however opportunities were identified in precision farming techniques, innovative packaging, functional ingredients and nutrition of foods, processing equipment, and safety testing. Perceived impediments to nanotechnology adoption were potential unknown human health and environmental impacts, consumer acceptance and media framing. The need for a risk assessment framework, research into long term health and environmental effects, and better engagement between scientists, government bodies, the agri-food industry and the public were identified as important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalFood Control
Early online date08 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Agri-food
  • Agriculture
  • Attitudes
  • Awareness
  • Food industry
  • GM
  • IoI
  • Nanotechnology
  • NI
  • ROI
  • SME

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology


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