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close this bookEco-restructuring: Implications for Sustainable Development (UNU, 1998, 417 p.)
close this folderPart I: Restructuring resource use
close this folder3. Ecological process engineering: The potential of bio-processing
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEditor's note
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe current situation: The status of biotechnologies
View the documentPotential and promises
View the documentMarket penetration by biotechnology
View the documentBarriers to penetration
View the documentFinal remarks
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences

Final remarks

To summarize, a number of conclusions can be set forth. In the first place, it is safe to say that biotechnologies can and doubtless will contribute significantly to long-run sustainability. They can contribute to solving existing problems such as food security, especially in the developing world (China, India). There is still significant potential for improving the yield and productivity of crops (e.g. rice) and animals, as well as improving nutritional value and taste, disease and pest resistance, storage life, and tolerance of heat, cold, saltiness, wetness, and aridity. A great and likely innovation of the coming decades will be the development of nitrogen-fixing staple crops, such as corn, wheat, and rice. Enormous strides can be expected in aquaculture, fishery management, and food processing, not to mention drinking water purification, composting of garbage, sewage treatment, biomass-based energy production, soil fertility, and decontamination. Developments such as "boneless" breeds (e.g. of trout), "seedless" fruits, and "antifreeze" genes (e.g. for salmon, tomatoes) will also make life interesting.

"Eco-technology" as a vision needs further elaboration and application. To achieve more general acceptance the vision must be sufficiently matured to be able to offer plausible alternatives and to describe transition pathways, from both economic and technological perspectives, such that the solving capacity is regarded as higher than the existing approach. This will require extensive research, development, and experience ("learning by doing"). Some examples are quantified in table 3.8 (Moser 1996).

Genuine practicality in making suggestions requires detailed knowledge of a particular region or country - its history, culture, biosphere, social structure, manpower situation, etc. There is no single set of recipes for a solution. Only general recommendations can be made, as depicted here.

Nevertheless, the direction seems inevitable. In the long run, principles of life must apply. The imperatives of the long-run survival of the human species surely imply that humans must learn to work within nature - as the so-called "indigenous" peoples had to do rather than treating nature as an enemy to be overcome. This long run survival imperative necessitates the preservation of biodiversity, as well as human cultural and social diversity. In this context, technology becomes a powerful tool to assist us to achieve the sort of eco-restructuring that will be required to achieve long-run sustainability.

Table 3.8 Quantitative data on the reduction of the environmental impact (heco) in the case of some recently elaborated "eco-tech" processes, using the SPI index for the quantification of the production processes (not including the application of the products)

Production process

heco

Drinking water denitrification:

2-5

micro-organisms versus electrodialysis


Bio-pesticides:

10-100

renewable versus fossil raw materials used


Biopolymers:

0.5-3.0

polyhydroxy-butyric acid versus polyethylene


Bio-fertilizers:

>5 104

rhizabium strains as soil bacteria versus chemical synthetic fertilizer (urea)