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White biotech gets thumbs up in new EU eco-strategy
29-01-2004: Today the EU Commission published the long awaited environmental technology action plan or ETAP (1) that aims for major cuts in green house gases, fossil fuels and waste, using innovative tools like white biotechnology (2). "ETAP is designed to deliver environmental benefits and give a boost to innovation," says Steen Riisgaard, Chair of the Industrial Biotechnology Board at EuropaBio. "We are encouraged that the EU Commission sees White Biotech as a key component of such a proactive strategy."
On the 15 January, the Belgian Academy of Sciences appealed to Belgium policy makers to take White Biotechnologies seriously, in a report addressed to the national government and the EU institutions (3). Lack of knowledge of how sustainable production can be achieved with White Biotech is holding the technology back. "White biotech is already employed to make enzymes, vitamins, food additives and a growing part of our drugs. It is also going to produce energy from biomass," says Hugo Schepens, Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European Association of bioindustries. "One day, bioplastics, car fuel and energy could all be made from agricultural waste."
A concerted effort is needed to bring the latest research findings together and create a European strategy to boost white biotech excellence. This is needed to generate production systems that are environmentally and economically viable. Independent studies by the German Öko Institut and McKinsey (4) on biological production systems for antibiotics, food ingredients and bulk chemicals show that white biotech makes both economic and environmental sense. "The evidence is there but the science is dispersed and once more, Europe is in a neck and neck race. What we need right away is a Technology Platform to focus European white biotech research and investment and make sustainable production a reality sooner than later," says Hugo Schepens.
White biotech mostly refers to the industrial manufacturing of products using microorganisms and enzymes to make goods like vitamins, detergents, biofuels, etc.
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