2021 journal article
Responsible innovation of nano-agrifoods: Insights and views from U. S. stakeholders
To date, there has been little published work that has elicited diverse stakeholder views of nano-agrifoods and of how nano-agrifoods align with the goals of responsible innovation. This paper aims to fill this research gap by investigating views of nano-agrifoods, how well their development adheres to principles of responsible innovation, and potential challenges for achieving responsible nano-agrifood innovation. Using an online engagement platform, we find that U.S. stakeholder views of responsible innovation were dominated by environmental, health, and safety (EHS) contexts, considerations of societal impacts, opportunities for stakeholder engagement, and responding to societal needs. These views overlap with scholarly definitions of responsible innovation, albeit stakeholders were more focused on impacts of products, while the field of responsible innovation strives for more "upstream" considerations of the process of innovation. We also find that views of nano-agrifoods differed across applications with dietary supplements and improved whitening of infant formula viewed least favorably, and environmental health or food safety applications viewed most favorably. These findings align with the larger body of literature, whereby stakeholders are expected to be more supportive of nanotechnology used in agricultural applications compared to directly within food and food supplements. Overall, participants indicated they held relatively neutral views on research and innovation for nano-agrifoods being conducted responsibly, and they identified key challenges to ensuring their responsible innovation that were related to uncertainties in EHS studies, the need for public understanding and acceptance, and adequate regulation. In light of these results, we recommend future research efforts on EHS impacts and risk-benefit frameworks for nano-agrifoods, better understanding stakeholder views on what constitutes effective regulation, and addressing challenges with effective regulation and responsible innovation practices.