The impact of nanotechnology extends from its medical, ethical, mental, legal and environmental applications, to fields such as engineering, biology, chemistry, computing, materials science, military applications, and communications.
Major benefits of nanotechnology include improved manufacturing methods, water purification systems, energy systems, physical enhancement, nanomedicine, better food production methods and nutrition and large scale infrastructure auto-fabrication. Nanotechnology's reduced size may allow for automation of tasks which were previously inaccessible due to physical restrictions, which in turn may reduce labor, land, or maintenance requirements placed on humans.
Potential risks include environmental, health, and safety issues; transitional effects such as displacement of traditional industries as the products of nanotechnology become dominant; military applications such as biological warfare and implants for soldiers; and surveillance through nano-sensors, which are of concern to privacy rights advocates. These may be particularly important if potential negative effects of nanoparticles are overlooked.
Whether nanotechnology merits special government regulation is a controversial issue. Regulatory bodies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Health & Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission have started dealing with the potential risks of nanoparticles. The organic food sector has been the first to act with the regulated exclusion of engineered nanoparticles from certified organic produce, firstly in Australia and the UK, and more recently in Canada, as well as for all food certified to Demeter International standards
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