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What Benefits Can We Expect From Biotechnology?

The Global Agenda Council on Biotechnology, one of the networks under the World Economic Forum (WEF), and a principal authority on the subject, has recently revealed the ‘The Top Ten Emerging Technologies’ that are going to play an important role in ensuring that we meet our current social, environmental, and economic challenges.

The growing global population has triggered a rising demand for energy, food, nutrition and health, while simultaneously we are experiencing a reduction in the availability of fossil fuels. This supply and demand conundrum highlights the need to investigate new ways to source power and energy. While the population is growing at a faster rate than staples, there is an urgent need for new technologies and innovative ideas to restore equilibrium.

The WEF hope that we can meet and deal with these new responsibilities effectively by understanding and introducing new expertise. These innovative technologies will increase productivity, decrease costs, and help to create new jobs.

‘The members of the council concluded that regulatory certainty, public perception, and investment are the key enablers for the growth of biotechnology,’ said Sang Yup Lee, Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Biotechnology, and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

Below is a list of some of the prime benefits that biotechnology will bring:

Bio production of sustainable chemicals, energy and other materials
For decades the world’s fossil fuel reserve has been used to generate electricity, heat, and to power the transport sector. Fossils fuels were used extensively from the time of the Industrial Revolution. There are numerous problems regarding the continued use of fossil fuels including their finite, non-renewable nature, the fact that they are fast depleting, and the impact they have on the environment. Furthermore, due to their irregular distribution, fossil fuels are set to become even less reliable in the future. Artificial biosynthesis is an immensely valuable process where living organisms, such as plants or bacteria that can be regrown, are used to generate fuels and chemicals. As fossil fuels are closely associated with global warming, this alternative technology is welcomed.

GM crops to promote sustainable food production
The global population is increasing and with this growth comes further challenges regarding fuel, food and animal feed. While the notion remains a source of debate, genetically modified crops can serve to resolve this shortage. Scientists have calculated that the price of food could increase twofold if farming does not embrace GM crops. Managed correctly, they can help lower the use of insecticides, and are central to increasing the productivity of international agriculture.

Seawater bioprocesses to create fuel and chemicals
New technologies are taking advantage of the huge amount of water available to man. With seawater covering approximately 70% of the earth, it is vital that we treat and maintain this resource in a useful and concrete way. There is huge opportunity and potential to create renewable energy from the sea, transforming certain types of seaweed, microalgae and bacteria, into biofuels and chemicals. The sea is a great foundation for trade, transport and food, and it looks like it can now add fuel to its curriculum.

Zero-waste bio-processing
Innovative bio-processing methods may allow us to realise the ultimate environmental aim of zero waste. Biotechnological advancements are simplifying waste streams and can transform the waste into chemicals and fuels at bio refineries. The bio-process has become less expensive and less toxic. This is a step in the right direction – in the direction of zero waste.

Carbon dioxide as a raw material
Global warming is directly related to the amount of CO2 in the environment. New technologies are needed to prevent unnecessary quantities being released into the atmosphere as the ecological costs of CO2 are becoming increasingly evident. Through research and analysis, combined with new technologies, analysts are finding ways to turn CO2 into the fuel of the future. This innovative expertise that can convert CO2 into a substitute fuel, reducing the greenhouse effect while simultaneously dealing with increased demand, is a huge move towards a sustainable future.

Regenerative medicinesWhile we celebrate that we are living longer, healthier lives, the ageing population brings with it certain challenges. Regenerative medicine hopes to manage these challenges effectively, and looks to repair or replace damaged or diseased human cells or tissues to allow normal bodily function to resume. Physicians will be able to provide and implant organs or tissue when a body is unable to heal itself. This area has unlimited possibilities with scientists currently manufacturing tissue from certain biomaterials.

Development and manufacturing of medicine and vaccines
Biotech innovations are changing the way we prevent disease. Through research, manufacturing and delivery mechanisms, human health has never been in better shape. Technologies including messenger therapeutics, targeted immunotherapies, conjugated nanoparticles, and structure-based engineering, have tested treatments with considerable potential to tackle illnesses across the globe.

Accurate, low-priced and personalized diagnostics and prognostics
Biotechnology can offer realistic solutions in response to world-wide epidemics. It can help recognise possible biological threats and come up with answers. Combining nanotechnology with information technology makes it possible to develop speedy, precise, low-cost diagnostics and prognostics systems.

Bio-tech developments to soil and water
Soil and water have been exploited and misused causing damage and threats to their existence. New biotechnologies have begun to reinforce the sustainability of these vital resources. These exciting developments include bioremediation, bioregeneration and bioaugmentation, which will rejuvenate these resources and also encourage ways to use them to their full potential.

Innovative healthcare through genome sequencing
One of the major ways biotechnology improves the quality of life is through gene therapy. Gene therapy can be used for handling, or even curing, genetic and acquired diseases. This technology is characterised less by treating symptoms and more by seeking to understand the fundamental genetic roots of disease. Major benefits of this technology will be a better understanding of, and treatments for, genetic diseases.

The global population is increasing and with this growth comes further challenges regarding fuel, food and animal feed.


Biotechnology has been around for thousands of years and has always had, and will continue to have, a vital role in many activities. These include sourcing fuel, improving our natural resources, providing low-cost food options, bread making, fermenting beer and modernising our medicines.

The future for biotechnology, working on environmentally-friendly biodegradation processes, is one filled with promise. It can help us live longer, healthier lives and improve our quality of life by reducing the threat of disease and eliminating hunger. The exciting biotechnologies that are nearing conclusion will help to create a greener, more sustainable, and an overall healthier planet.

It is time to embrace what biotechnology has to offer, take the advice of Sang Yup Lee, and get behind this innovative, ground-breaking industry. In return it guarantees to offer economic, social and environmental rewards.