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BIOTECHNOLOGY’S CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

by | Feb 4, 2022 | Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the twenty-first century’s buzzword; it combines biology and technology. It focuses on utilizing the biological component and changing its genetic composition to produce substances on a large scale. In this article, we will learn about Biotechnology’s contribution to sustainable development.

“Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development” (OECD) describes Biotechnology as “the application of scientific and engineering concepts to the processing of materials by biological agents to produce goods and services.”

Modern biotechnology arose and evolved with the perfection of two core techniques:

  1. Genetic engineering ( Recombinant DNA technology)
  2. Biochemical engineering process (helps in the growth and maintenance of genetically engineered microbes contamination-free culture to manufacture biotechnological products).

Biotechnology

BIOTECHNOLOGY’S CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 

1. AGRICULTURE

Multipronged efforts in agriculture made India one of the world’s leading agricultural nations. And after the green revolution almost tripled the food grain production, it is still not enough to feed the rapidly increasing human population. The reason for this increased production of food grains was new and improved crop varieties and judicious use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, better irrigation, and better crop production management.

The Development of Genetically Modified crops (GM crops) through genetic engineering can overcome all the problems associated with conventional agriculture. Transferring genes between two unrelated organisms with the help of genetic engineering are creates Transgenic plants or crops.

Genetically Modified crops

Biotechnology helps in the creation of Biofertilizers and biopesticides, which are being preferred over Agrochemicals. One more term that you must be aware of is Organic agriculture, also known as organic farming. It is the practice of growing crops, fruits, and vegetables without using bio-fertilizers or pesticides.

The objective of developing Genetically Modified Crops:

  • Pest resistance: Farmers use a daze of insecticides to protect their crops from insects, but it makes crops a potential health hazard. Therefore there is a need to develop GM crops to eliminate pest resistance. Some pest-resistant crops developed so far are BT Cotton (resistance to insect larva) and potato, tomato, etc.
  • Herbicides resistance: Biotechnology helps in the development of GM plants of cotton, maize, and tobacco with herbicide tolerance, and they can also degrade herbicides.
  • Disease resistance: Biotechnology helps create Genetically modified plants with infectious disease resistance to protect our crops from bacterial, fungal, and viral attacks. It basically means the development of transgenic crops with enhanced resistance to fungal diseases. They have a transgene encoding pathogenesis-related proteins capable of destroying the fungal cell wall.
  • Pharmaceutical: Aim is to produce pharma articles like insulin, vitamin A, blood clotting factors, vaccines. Molecular farming is the cultivation of transgenic plants from pharmaceuticals.

2. RENEWABLE RAW MATERIAL AND ENERGY

The renewable raw material has core features, properties, and functions that are difficult to find in conventional material. With the help of the biotechnology field, the production of renewable raw materials has a safe cost and enables innovation at the same time. We also see the customers interested in the products based on the renewable material as they are healthier and more natural.

“In 2019, renewable resources produced approximately 5.3% of raw material and energy worldwide. These renewable raw materials are derived from the oils sugar starch cellulose and protein and biofuel” reported by BASF. The alternative of fossil fuels by biofuels helps shorten the dependency on Fossil resources and reduce the greenhouse effect.

renewable raw material

Some of the renewable raw materials by biotechnology modification are :

Starch: Starch is mainly extracted from wheat and tubers and is the most important renewable raw material. In the presence of a plasticizer, the conversion of raw starch into a plastic-like material is called Thermoplastic Starch (TPS). Modification by biotechnology, thermoplastic starch has reached properties like water resistance-acceptable barrier and high equilibrium time.

Oil: Oil is the most common renewable raw material of biotechnology due to its basic application of coatings and lubrication. Oil is extracted from the seeds like sunflower, peanut, coconut, olive, and soybean. The transesterification process processes oil to produce renewable material. These renewable monomers can undergo conventional polymerization and yield bio-derived products.

Biofuel: Extracted from the plants. Biofuels help shortens the dependency on fossil fuels, help a struggling economy, and cause less carbon emission.

3. WASTE PREVENTION

Biotechnology provides several practical tools and solutions for applying in waste prevention and management. Not all the technological tools are new, as the sewage treatment plant, sludge treatment, landfill, and biofilters are clear examples of biotechnology that works in waste prevention and management.

One of the techniques is PHYTOREMEDIATION, and this technique uses plants to remove and degrade waste in the soil or surface water.

Phytoremediation is the use of green plants and their associated microorganisms, soil amendments, and agronomic practices to remove and contain harmless environmental contaminants.

WASTE PREVENTION

In India, TATA Energy Research Institute uses phytoremediation to tackle environmental problems caused by fly ash (a thermal power station). This phytoremediation can be used as an alternative to conventional waste management techniques as it is eco-friendly and uses the most natural methodologies.

4. BIOREMEDIATION

Bioremediation is the technique used in waste treatment with the help of microorganisms that degrade the target pollutants in soil and grounded water.

So now the next question which comes to our mind is why bioremediation? So here are the few advantages of Bioremediation.

  • It utilizes natural products,
  • Requires little equipment, labor, or energy,
  • Cost-effective,
  • Uses harmless microorganisms and chemicals.

BIOREMEDIATION

How does it work?

Now, let us know how the Bioremediation process works. In this process, microbes eat and digest contaminants. And when the groundwater or soil does not have enough microbes to reduce the contamination, we add microbes in situ.

For the bioremediation process to be more effective, proper nutrients and food must also be provided. These suitable conditions allow the microbes to reduce more contamination.

CONCLUSION

Biotechnology’s contribution to sustainable development is already quite prominent as it covers many different disciplines and techniques that help in medicines, agriculture, and industrial biotechnology. The development of biotechnology research areas has developed rapidly through the possibility of making changes in the organism’s genetic material.

Biotechnology has contributed a lot to agriculture by providing potentially sustainable grains to enhance productivity in agriculture and food security in developing countries and contribute to sustainable development.

 

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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