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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Environmental Biotechnology

Environmental biotechnology is the use of living organisms for a wide variety of applications in hazardous waste treatment and pollution control. For example, a fungus is being used to clean up a noxious substance discharged by the paper-making industry. Marine biotechnologists are studying ways that estuarine bacteria can detoxify materials such as chemical sea brines that cause environmental problems in many industries.

Environmental biotechnology can more efficiently clean up many hazardous wastes than conventional methods and greatly reduce our dependence for waste cleanup on methods such as incineration or hazardous waste dump sites. This technology may be a boon for a number of developing countries who are faced with a perennial problem of finding cost effective ways of dealing with their daily waste.

How Does It Work?
Using biotechnology to treat pollution problems is not a new idea. Communities have depended on complex populations of naturally occurring microbes for sewage treatment for over a century. Every living organism— animals, plants, bacteria and so forth—ingests nutrients to live and produces a waste byproduct as a result. Different organisms need different types of nutrients. Certain bacteria thrive on the chemical components of waste products. Some microorganisms, for example, feed on toxic materials such as methylene chloride, detergents and creosote.

Industries That Benefit

• The chemical industry
Using biocatalysts to produce novel compounds, reduce waste byproducts and improve chemical purity.

• The plastics industry:
Decreasing the use of petroleum for plastic production by making “green plastics” from renewable crops such as corn or soybeans.

• The paper industry:
Improving manufacturing processes, including the use of enzymes to lower toxic byproducts from pulp processes.

• The textiles industry:
Lessening toxic byproducts of fabric dying and finishing processes. Fabric detergents are becoming more effective with the addition of enzymes to their active ingredients.

• The food industry:
Improving baking processes, fermentation—derived preservatives and analysis techniques for food safety.

• The livestock industry:
Adding enzymes to increase nutrient uptake and decrease phosphate byproducts.

• The energy industry:
Using enzymes to manufacture cleaner biofuels from agricultural wastes.

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