TIRED OF THE SAME OLD EARTH DAY STORIES?
To: Environment and Earth Science Reporters
Contact: Brent Erickson or Peper Long
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
(202) 962-9200Date: April 16, 2001
While researching story topics for Earth Day 2001 - consider what industrial and environmental biotechnology have to offer:
Using biotechnology processes, scientists are able to understand and utilize Mother Nature’s own recipe for efficiency - DNA. Industrial biotechnology is working to create products and processes that save energy, reduce or prevent toxic pollution and maximize the use of renewable materials.
Advances in the field of genomics have led to the ability to create thousands of new proteins, or enzymes, engineered for very specific functions. Enzymes can be used to replace toxic chemicals and harsh production environments in manufacturing processes - saving energy and preventing industrial pollution. In addition, enzymes are engineered for very specific purposes, which may limit, perhaps even eliminate, environmental side effects. Enzymes are themselves biodegradable - and can be readily absorbed back into the environment. Some examples of industrial biotechnology include:
· Using cellulase in place of pumice stones in the “stonewashing” process of denim manufacturing, saves acres of land from strip mining, and is more economical.
· The U.S. livestock industry produces 100 million tons of animal manure every year, which releases one million tons of phosphorus into our environment. Adding phytases to animal feed will reduce the amount of phosphorus in animal manure - reducing water pollution and aiding animal digestion.
· The corrosive alkaline process used in galvanizing metal can be replaced by degreasing enzymes, which use one-tenth as much water and cut the resulting hydroxide sludge in half. The old process produces wastewater containing heavy metals.
· In the tanning process of animal hides and skins, protease is being used to reduce the use of sulphides by 40 percent.
· Using enzymes called xylanases can significantly reduce the amount of chlorine used in pulp bleaching for paper, resulting in a reduction of dioxin and other chlorine-containing chemicals in our lakes and streams.
· Research is underway that utilizes enzymes in the conversion of agricultural biomass to ethanol. Ethanol is a valuable gasoline additive that is being used to replace the pollutant called MTBE.
· Proteases are used by soap and detergent manufacturers to reduce phosphate pollution and to boost cleaning capability.
· DuPont is now perfecting a biological process for making propanediol (PDO), which is the key ingredient in its new SoronaÔ polymer, through fermentation with cornstarch as the raw materials. In addition to saving non-renewable resources in the manufacturing process, the fiber produced with PDO is completely recyclable at the end of its product life.
· Through industrial biotechnology, corn is being used to produce polylactic acid (PLA), which can be made into compostable plastic products including food containers and packaging; as well as fibers for use in carpeting, home furnishing and clothing.
We’ve just begun to tap the potential for creating industrial enzymes that can perform effectively and help clean and maintain the environment. Biotechnology will play a critical role in the future health of our environment, and can help us achieve industrial and environmental sustainability. For more information and interviews, please contact Brent Erickson or Peper Long at (202) 962-9200. # # #