Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Forest Report trumps Agr/Food Report

Imagine my surprise as another of my misapprehensions was corrected. I just assumed that two reports I was reading would be different in terms of quality but not in the direction I am going to report.

Nanotechnology for the Forest Products Industry: Vision and Technology Roadmap is excellent. This 102-page document includes the results of the October 2004 Nanotechnology For The Forest Products Industry Workshop which was attended by 110 researchers and scientists representing paper manufacturers, suppliers, government, and academia. Sponsored by the Nanotechnology Working Group from the Agenda 2020 Technology Summit II last May, 2004, the Workshop was designed to help participants plan the industry’s research future.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This report does an incredibly good job explaining the intersection of applied nanoscience with the forestry industry. It claims nano "holds the promise of changing all of the processes by which wood and paper products are now made." It covers surface/interface modification of wood and pulp fibers, adhesives and surface coatings, direct impregnation treatments, reinforced fibers with enhance recyclability, and new wood fiber-based products. True be told, there are some fascinating possibilities here, esp. in terms of improving "the efficiency of forest products raw material conversion processed by reducing energy consumption by processing 50 percent, using up to 60 percent less raw materials per unit of forest product, and reducing product degrade/off-specification."

The report discussed "genomic modification of trees and other lign0ocellulosic feedstock." Applications are numerous and include sensors, packaging materials, biocompatible or anti-microbial material, or substrates whose surface properties have been tailored for compatibility with other electronic or optoelectronic materials or devices."

The report brief covers early warning and self-healing brought on by mold or termites, spoilage and tampering sensitive packaging, intelligent papers, etc. And, it's a beautiful colorful publication.

On the other hand, Nanoscale Science and Engineering for Agriculture and Food Systems, A report submitted to Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, USDA, based on a Workshop on November 18-19, 2002, and published in September 2003 was unimpressive and superficial. I found more complete information in the ETC Group's Down on the Farm.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Even once we factor out the obvious (the Workshops were held two years apart), there is simply a less understood understanding of the intersection nature of the relationships involved in the Ag/Food Systems report.

On p. 18, "scouting" is discussed. Think "smart dust" because that concept was lost in the report. Chapter 5 covers "Smart Treatment Delivery Systems" and this controversial subject gets three pages of double-space coverage. "Smart Fields" and "Smart Herds" got two more pages in the next chapter. By the way the entire chapter was two pages long. On educating the public, it recommends: "The public should be educated through television, Internet, and point-of-sale informative bulletins that explain the value-added, increased safety and food security due to application of nanotechnology." I particularly enjoyed p. 50 where 1% of their Centers of Excellence's budgets should be dedicated to Public Education/Outreach activities (irony intended). Maybe, we could do better!!! I sure hope these efforts are NOT added into the number used by bureaucrats when they tally the amount dedicated to outreach.

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