Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.


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3 October 2007

The Right Hon Helen Clark                                                                                                                 Prime Minister                                                                                                                 Government Buildings Health

Copies to all Members of Parliament; Ministries for the Environment, Health, Defence and MAF; ERMA; FSANZ; Federated Farmers


Dear Helen


The Trustees and Members of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics would appreciate receiving details of the procedures your government has put/is putting in place:

1. To regulate the development of Nanotechnology
2. To require safety testing of all products of Nanotechnology
3. To assess the risk of waste product matter derived from the production and use of Nanotechnology

Of serious concern is the fact that few toxicological studies exist on engineered nanoparticles. Limited though they are, from those carried out it appears that nanoparticles as a class are more toxic than conventional forms of the same compound. Because they are mobile and reactive, they can cross protective membranes such as skin, and the placental and blood-brain barriers. In tests on mice, nanoparticles were found to over-stimulate brain cells, which could possibly lead to brain damage. It has also been found that nano drug delivery systems for the body, called dendrimers, damage cell membranes and cause cell death.

There are reportedly already some 300+ products of Nanotechnology being marketed worldwide, including in New Zealand, with many more proposed, and no government is known to have put in place any effective regulation or safety testing.

The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy , Germany, says around 200 food industries, including the multinationals Heinz, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup and Nestlé, already use nano food products or ingredients. Kraft admits to developing ‘interactive’ drinks containing nanocapsules that can change colour and/or flavour. Unilever and Nestlé plan to produce an ice cream with nanoparticle emulsions to ‘improve’ texture.

The technology is being used in the production of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, dental fillings, toothpaste, cleaning materials, building materials, windscreen films, thermal wear, military uniforms and equipment, cosmetics, baby products, industrial tools, fabrics, agricultural products, medical supplies, and more. Among other ideas, we may see nano-ceuticals, -seeds, -packaging and -feed in the future.

Nano-particulate matter behaves very different from normal bulk materials. Materials can take on new properties: e.g. aluminium – as used for soft drink cans – can spontaneously combust; gold is inert in bulk, but a gold particle of less than two billionths of a metre can bind to human DNA. At the nano-scale, zinc oxide changes from its normal white appearance in its bulk state to become transparent. As an ingredient in sunscreens it can be worn without being visible. Zinc oxide nanoparticles applied to skin could potentially pass through to the blood stream and thence through the placental or blood-brain barriers. This may result in chronic sub-clinical conditions that are not detected until there are much later epidemiological studies. BASF sunscreen - containing zinc oxide nanoparticles - reportedly has sixty percent of the sun cream market in Australia.

Scientists at the University of Texas placed carbon nanotubes in the trachea of mice and found they caused inflammation of the lungs and tumour-like modules of bloated white blood cells in the lining of the lungs. Of the nine mice treated with a higher dose five died. Researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, West Virginia, found nanoparticles damaged mitochondrial DNA in the heart and the aortic artery of mice, and created substantial oxidative damage, both of which foreshadow arteriosclerosis. When nano-scale carbon allotropes called fullerenes (at 0.5 ppm in water) were taken up by largemouth bass, the fish suffered severe brain damage 48 hours later. Researchers at Tottori University in Japan found that within 60 seconds of contact with the tiniest airways of mice, carbon nanotubes began to burrow through gaps between the cells lining the surface and into the blood capillaries where the negatively charged nanoparticles attached themselves to the normally positively charged red blood cells. This could cause clumping of the red blood cells and thence blood clotting.

David Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars has asked who knows what happens when nano materials are ground up, incinerated or go into a landfill. “These products may be safe in the tennis racket, but all products become obsolete at some point…” What happens when nanoparticles are released into the atmosphere and inhaled? A cleaning sponge on the market in New Zealand, produced using nanotechnology, warns users, “Do not eat or use on the human body.” The sponge disintegrates with usage. How do cleaners protect themselves from inhaling particles this fine? Airborne, nanoparticles could potentially travel vast distances, witness the ceramic, nano-size particles created in the use of depleted uranium weapons, inhaled by civilians and the military alike, and carried on wind systems around the globe. Studies have also shown that nanoparticles can move in unexpected ways through soil, and potentially carry other substances with them.

Nanotechnology developments will impact on New Zealand’s industry, horticulture and agriculture. We need to safeguard our economy and our people.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Trustees of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics

Paul G Butler, BSc, MB, ChB, Dip. Obst. (Auckland), FRNZCGP
General Practitioner, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND

John R Clearwater, BSc, MSc, PhD
Principal Scientist, Clearwater Research and Consulting, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND

General Practitioner, Trustee PSRG, MURUPARA

Elvira Dommisse BSc (Hons), PhD, Mus.B, LTCL, AIRMTNZ
Scientist, Crop & Food Research Institute (1985-1993), working on GE onion programme.

Michael E Godfrey, MBBS, FACAM, FACNEM
Director, Bay of Plenty Environmental Health Clinic, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA

Neil Macgregor, BSc, MSc, PhD
Soil Microbiologist, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University,

Peter R Wills, BSc, PhD
Associate Professor, University of Auckland, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND

Robert G Anderson, BSc, PhD
Lecturer retired, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA

Jean Anderson
Businesswoman retired, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA.

Signed on behalf of PSRG
Jean Anderson

1. The ETC Group Reports at Nanotech Rx – Medical Applications of Nanoscale Technologies: What Impact on Marginalized Communities? September 2006. NanoGeoPolitics: ETC Group Surveys the Political Landscape, July/August 2005. Nanotech’s Second Nature Patents: Implications for the Global South, June 2005. Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture, November 2004. The Big Down: Technologies Converging at the Nano-Scale, January 2003. Size Matters! The Case for a Global Moratorium, April 2003.
2. Nanotoxicity: A New Disciple, Dr Mae-Wan Ho, and Nanotubes Highly Toxic, SiS 21.
3. Dr Peter Montague, Welcome to Nano World: Nanotechnology and the Precautionary Principle Imperative, Multinational Monitor, Vol. 25, No 9, September 2004.
4. Anonymous, Johnson Space Centre News Release, “NASA Awards US$ 11 M ‘Quantum Wire’ Contract to Rice,” 22 April 2005.
5. Steve, Jurvetson, “Transcending Moore’s Law with Molecular Electronics,” Nanotechnology Law & Business Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, article 9, p. 9.
6. Antonio Regalado, “Nanotechnology Patents Surge as Companies Vie to Stake Claim,” Wall Street Journal, 18 June 2004, p. 1.
7. Alexandra Goho, “Protein Power: Solar cell produces electricity from spinach and bacterial proteins,” Science News Online, 5 June 2004: Vol. 165, No. 2, p.355,
8. Robert F Service, "Calls Rise for More Research on Toxicology of Nanomaterials," Science Vol. 310, No. 5754 (9 Dec. 2005), pg.1609. v. Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology
9. A speech by Lila Feisee, 2 June 2004:
10. Clifford Lau of the US Defense Department to Barnaby Feder, “Frontier of Military Technology is the Size of a Molecule,” New York Times, 8 April 2003, p.C2.
11. Mihail Roco and William Sims Bainbridge, eds., ‘Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance,’ NSF/DOC Report, June 2002.
12. ETC Group News Release, 22 June 2007; Planktos’s commercial ocean iron fertilization carbon-trading gambit, Brakes on Flakes, Intergovernmental scientific body fires shot across geoengineer’s bow. Iron versus the Greenhouse: Oceanographers cautiously explore a global warming therapy, Richard Monastersky, Science News, vol.148, p.220, 30 September 1995.

Other sources of information: The Sunshine Project, The Edmonds Institute, The International Network of Engineers and Scientists




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