Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Environmental Applications Biotechnology

Although biotechnology has several potential environmental applications-including pollution control, crop enhancement, pest control, mining, and microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR)— commercial activity to date is minuscule compared to other industrial sectors. Bioremediation, efforts to use biotechnology for waste cleanup, has received public attention recently because of the use of naturally occurring micro-organisms in oil-spill cleanups. The U.S. bioremediation industry includes more than 130 firms, but it is the focus of few DBCs. Nevertheless, though small, the size of the commercial bioremediation sector in the United States far exceeds activity in other nations. Although bioremediation offers several advantages over more conventional waste treatment technologies, several factors hinder its widespread use.

Relatively little is known about the effects of micro-organisms in various ecosystems. Research data are not disseminated as well as research in other industrial sectors because of limited Federal funding of basic research and the proprietary nature of business relationships under which bioremediation is most often used. Regulations provide a market for bioremediation by dictating what must be cleaned up, how clean it must be, and which cleanup methods may be used; but regulations also hinder commercial development, due to their sheer volume and lack of standards governing biological waste treatment.