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Biotechnology Helps Meet Consumer Demand for Earth-Friendly Products

April 22, 2013
Industrial biotechnology has its roots in cleaning up environmental hazards. In fact, the first patented genetically engineered microbe was designed to clean up oil spills. Today, biotechnology enables manufacturers to make sustainable products with renewable material, instead of oil, and to use less energy in the manufacturing process

A recent Roundtable discussion hosted by the Industrial Biotechnology Journal and printed in its April edition features academic experts and executives from industrial biotechnology and consumer product companies discussing demand for sustainable products. (Visit Journal publisher MaryAnn Liebert at Booth 3617 in the BIO Exhibition.) Consumers are looking for products that are safer, reduce pollution and energy use, and minimize impact on water quality, according to the participants.

Jenny Cross, Global Sustainability Director for Mohawk Industries – maker of SmartStrand carpets that use renewable nylons – explains: “We find that what she is looking for – and in our case, it is mostly a female demographic purchasing flooring – is really more centered on the health and wellbeing of the people inside the home than the more technical aspects of a product.”

“Consumers either have a great awareness of green products or they are ready to take advantage of the green products presented by the industry,” elaborates Jeremy Xu, Vice President of Global Sales and Applications for DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “About 80 percent of U.S. consumers say they will buy green products if the product is available to them and at a similar cost.”

More and more such products are becoming available to consumers. Already, about 3,100 companies, employing nearly 100,000 people, make nearly 25,000 biobased products.

And consumer product manufacturers are increasingly recognizing that they can meet consumer demands with biobased products and renewable chemicals, according to Damien Development with Genomatica. “Nearly half of the entire chemical industry (45%) reported that they now have investment in research and development for using renewable feedstocks,” he noted.

The $3.5 trillion global chemicals market represents a significant opportunity for growth of industrial biotechnology that ultimately provides consumers a choice of safer, cleaner products.