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Nano-pesticides: state of knowledge, environmental fate and exposure modelling

Research is urgently needed to evaluate the risks and benefits of nano-pesticides to human and environmental health.

The risk that engineered nano-particles may pose to human and environment health is still poorly understood and the precautionary principle suggests to keep environmental release minimal. During the past ten years, nano-technology has been presented as having the potential to revolutionize agricultural practices and food systems. An extensive review of the literature to explore the (potential) applications of nano-technology in agricultural systems indicates that research has been extremely active over the past few years [1]. Nano-pesticides encompass a great variety of products, some of which are already on the market. The large number of patents recently lodged forecasts a rapid growth in coming years. The application of nano-pesticides would be the only intentional diffuse inputs of large quantities of engineered nano-particles into the environment. Research on nano-pesticides is therefore a priority for preserving the quality of both the food chain and the environment.

Innovation always results in both drawbacks and benefits for human and environmental health.Nano-pesticides may reduce environmental contamination through the reduction in application rates and reduced losses. However, nano-pesticides may also create new kinds of contamination of soils and waterways due to enhanced transport, longer persistence and higher toxicity.

The current level of knowledge does not allow a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that will result from the use of nano-pesticides. As a prerequisite for such assessment, a better understanding of the fate and effect of nano-pesticides after their application is required. The suitability of current regulations should also be analyzed so that refinements can be implemented if needed.

 [1] Kah, M; Beulke, S.; Tiede, K.; Hofmann, T. Nano-pesticides: state of knowledge, environmental fate and exposure modeling Crit. Rev. Environ. Sci. Technol.

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