BIOTECHNOLOGY HELPS ENVIRONMENT
simply defined as the development of products by using a biological
process. Production may be carried out by using
intact organisms of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, or by using
natural substances created by the organisms, such as enzymes.
The United States, and specifically California, is a world leader
in the area of new biotechnology, a multi-billion dollar industry.
The use of new
biotechnology for cleaning up major environmental concerns may be in its
infancy, but practical applications are underway.
Many problems associated with water, air, and soil contaminants can be
fixed with new biotechnology. Modern biotechnology
is currently being used in soils for growing better crops, in wastewater
for eliminating odors and meeting regulatory requirements, in toxic
waste clean-up and many other areas.
There is a dilemma
with biotechnology concerning on-going research.
What takes place on a small scale under controlled laboratory conditions
is completely different than what occurs in a large scale "real world"
situation. An example is in cheese manufacturing
where thousands of pounds are made at one time with microbes added prior
to aging. It would be very difficult to make a one
pound batch with the same characteristics as a large batch because of
the transformations caused by the microbes and enzymes.
With new biotechnology, large projects generally outperform
smaller test projects.
Agriculture is the
big winner as modern biotechnology progresses. Past attempts for the
long term control of nematode and phylloxera in vineyards with strong
chemicals have had limited success. However, safe
methods, using biotechnology, can supply special nutrients for the
beneficial microbes in the soil. Several microbial
strains, including actinomycetes, which are typically native in the
soil, produce enzymes that open the skin of the damaging nematode or
phylloxera, diminishing their population. The soil
comes alive with beneficial creatures that can naturally control pest
and disease problems. In addition, the trillions of
beneficial microbes work to adjust pH, make nutrients more available,
improve plant health and increase crop quality and yields.
industry has had difficulty dealing with wastewater problems.
Sewage treatment plants around the world have included the use of
native microbes that exist in their conventional treatment systems.
By using biotechnology, the treatment process can be optimized
with the proper strains of selected microbes. These
microbes are more efficient at eating the waste, which causes high
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the water.
Special nutrients enable the microbes to reproduce and thrive in the
system. The treatment plant becomes more efficient
without incurring the major expense of building larger facilities.
The waste is more completely broken down for safer discharge, the
BOD is decreased, and the corresponding odors are significantly reduced
Dairy and hog
operations that discharge wastewater into ponds or fields are also able
to benefit from new biotechnology by lowering the nitrate concentration
of their waste stream as well as eliminating odors associated with the
waste. For instance, dairy wastewater is loaded with
sanitizers and disinfectants that keep our milk supply safe for
drinking. While these products help ensure the
safety of our milk, they cause problems for the useful microbes in the
wastewater. By treating the wastewater with the
proper strains of microbes and nutrients, the sanitizers, disinfectants,
and manure are broken down prior to field application.
As a result, the crops benefit from a more productive soil.
Food processing companies can also handle many of their
environmental waste problems by using modern biotechnology.
The world faces
many environmental challenges that can be effectively resolved using
biotechnology. The focus on handling these
challenges should be to treat the waste on-site and avoid transferring
the problem to a landfill or municipal sewer system. Modern
biotechnology can meet these challenges. This safe
method of resolving complex problems is rapidly emerging as the most
cost effective solution available.
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