Biotechnology and industrial ecology: new challenges for a changing global environment
AbstractHuman causes of global environmental change are invariably linked to inconsistencies in the relationship between industrial activities and ecological systems (industrial ecology). The choice of fuel materials used in the energy industry is directly responsible for increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, resulting in the current trend of global warming. The dependency of the agricultural industry on chemicals to sustain productivity in marginal landscapes has led to a global-scale contamination of the environment with toxic pesticides and with nutrient fertilizers that are changing the course of biogeochemical cycles. One of the strategies proposed to mitigate climate change is to lower dependency on fossil fuels by substituting renewable biomass. This strategy has several co-benefits for human health and the environment because it supports investments in agricultural biotechnology while reducing the adverse health impacts of combustion byproducts of fossil fuels. The strategy has limited likelihood for success if “run-away” climate change modifies the ecosystem sufficiently to impact agricultural productivity. The development and global implementation of biotechnological approaches can contribute urgently needed solutions to problems associated with inefficiencies in the industrial ecology of agricultural and energy resources. The necessary biotechnological protocols are available, but scale-up techniques are limiting, particularly with respect to the cultivation and processing of alternative non-recalcitrant raw materials in stressful environments.
Key words: Biotechnology, industrial ecology, energy, agriculture, biofuels, climate change, desertification, genetic engineering.
African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 2 (12), pp. 596-601, December 2003