"Industrial Applications for Biotechnology: Opportunities for Developing Countries"
Journal Article, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, volume 44, issue 6
July / August 2002
Authors: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Victor Konde, Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2000-2002
Sustaining the bioeconomy will require the adoption of a governance regime for biotechnology that helps bring a large number of developing countries into the global trading system. Failure to do so will create a "genetic divide" among countries and likely will intensify public opposition to biotechnology that will be fueled by presumptions about possible market dislocation and apparent technological disparities among nations. 3 A global governance system will require improvements in market access, development of technological capabilities, access to technology, a favorable regulatory environment for biotechnology, and management of risks and benefits associated with its use.
Advances in biotechnology-related fields such as genomics, genetic engineering, chemical engineering, and cell technology are transforming the industrial and environmental biotechnology landscape. However, much discussion of biotechnology currently focuses on agricultural applications (and to some extent biomedical uses). The generic nature of biotechnology techniques makes it possible to create a bioeconomy with greater prospects for the commercialization of new products and the wider participation of developing countries. 4 This market inclusion model would differ from the current one, in which technology is concentrated in a few countries and resistance to new products is widespread. 5
So far, much of the research on policy aspects of biotechnology has focused on agricultural and pharmaceutical biotechnology. Industrial and environmental biotechnology remain understudied. 7 Industrial application of biotechnology is emerging as a spinoff from developments in other fields and covers two distinct areas: the use of renewable raw materials (biomass) to replace raw materials derived from fossil fuels, and the use of biological systems such as cells or enzymes (used as reagents or catalysts) to replace conventional, nonbiological methods.
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