Saturday, 3 July 2010

Chemical Industry Biotechnology

The chemical industry is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the United States and Europe. Currently, over 50,000 chemicals and formulations are produced in the United States. The consumption of chemical products by industry gives these products a degree of anonymity as they usually reach consumers in altered forms or as parts of other goods.

Biotechnology has a limited, though varied, role in chemical production. The production of some chemicals now produced by fermentation, such as amino acids and industrial enzymes, may be improved using biotechnology. Similarly, biotechnology can be used to produce enzymes with altered characteristics (e.g., greater” stability in harsh solvents or greater heat resistance). In many instances, biotechnology products will probably be developed and introduced by major firms without the fanfare that has accompanied other biotechnology developments and, like much of chemical production, will remain unknown to those outside the industry.

In the very long run, biotechnology may have a major impact in shifting the production of fuel and bulk chemicals away from reliance on nonrenewable resources (e.g., oil) and toward renewable resources (e.g., biomass). However, current work in this field appears to be limited, in part, because the international price of oil has remained too low to encourage investment in alternatives, and, in part, because the chemical industry throughout the world has restructured during the last 10 years, moving away from bulk chemical production and toward the production of specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products.