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[NEW DELHI] Indian scientists have called for the development of regulations on the safe use of nanotechnology in healthcare and the environment.

The absence of regulations for nanotechnology in India and worldwide is a serious problem, said Prasenjit Sen, from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, at a meeting this week (8 October) in Delhi, India, to discuss the key problems that India faces in its quest to develop the emerging technology.

Several Indian institutes and firms are already working on nanotechnology products for drug delivery, water filters, arsenic removal, reducing water and air pollution, antimicrobial coatings and river cleaning projects, Sen said, and the country must develop guidelines on nanoparticle toxicity and biosafety.

Scientists from the Energy Resources Institute in Delhi launched a study this year to investigate the opportunities and risks associated with the technology.

The meeting also heard that India lacks a sizeable pool of young researchers trained in nanoscience and nanotechnology, and that the country has relatively few patents and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Earlier this year, India launched a programme to promote nanoscience and nanotechnology with a budget of 10 trillion Indian rupees (US$255 million). But although several public and private research institutes are working on DNA chips, carbon nanotubes, nanoparticles such as iron oxide and silver oxide, and products such as paints and polymers, experts noted a general lack of enthusiasm from Indian industry.

There has been no effort to link the technology's potential with development in agriculture and addressing the needs of people in rural areas, who form the backbone of India's economy, said Anil Rajvanshi, director of the Nimbkar Agriculture Research Institute in the state of Maharashtra in western India.

For example, nanomaterials could help improve solar cells and biogas reactors, said Rajvanshi. But so far the government has shown no interest in funding such projects.