R&D priorities in biotechnology are essential to take care of post-Kyoto challenges:
A. Global Warming: The third session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change, held in Kyoto, Japan, on December 1997, agreed on a protocol which includes each party’s quantitative commitment to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2010. The protocol specifies that the European Union will commit itself to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent by 2010 from the level of 1990 (base year), the
This would include a shift from present petrochemical industry processes, which consume large quantities of energy under conditions of high temperature and pressure, to more energy-efficient biological processes, which use renewable resources such as biomass to produce useful substances under normal temperatures and pressures. For example, future processes will focus more on producing efficiently alternative fuels such as ethanol, which contribute less to global warming and are also likely to produce environmentally benign products, such as biodegradable plastics, which breaks down in natural settings after use.
As a result, biotechnology should become an increasingly valuable tool for developing environmentally friendly products and processes and for preventing the Earth from warming.
B. R&D priorities in biotechnology for promotion of clean industrial products and processes: If biotechnology is to become an increasingly important source of clean industrial products and processes, R&D efforts will need to focus on a number of priority areas. Among those that deserve prompt and focused research in the near future are:
a. Innovative products derived from biological sources that contribute to sustainability;
b. Wider exploration of biological systems (enzymes, micro-organisms, cells, whole organisms);
c. Greater emphasis on the use of bioconsortia, including establishing them and developing production and degradation processes based on them;
d. Novel methodologies for developing biological processes (bio-molecular design, genomics);
e. Innovative biocatalyst technology for use in areas where conventional biocatalysts have not yet been exploited (e.g. the petrochemical industries);
f. Biological recycling processes that convert unused resources to useful substances;
g. Emphasis on engineering, especially large-scale engineering, process intensification, measurement, monitoring and control systems;
h. Greater emphasis on biodiversity and widening the search for novel genes (bioprospecting), a process that will require, in parallel, the construction of infrastructures such as culture collections, comprehensive biological databases, and the development of bioinformatics;
i. Focus on development and application of recombinant technology.