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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 48, 25 February-3 March 2023

Biotechnology: Rewarding Career in Climate Change Mitigation


Ankita Shrivastav

The burgeoning human population and its concomitant developmental activities have caused significant environmental degradation, prompting governments across the globe to priorities issues such as biodiversity conservation, ecological restoration, integrated solid waste management, environmental toxicology, sustainable development, and global environmental change. The objective is to ensure that future generations inherit a healthy planet. Biotechnology, as a multidisciplinary field, applies biological organisms, cells, and molecules for a variety of commercial applications. In particular, it has demonstrated remarkable achievements in the arena of environmental research, thus instilling a sense of hope regarding the environmental problems it may help address. While scientists and engineers lead the environmental biotech sector, the rapid expansion of this domain has resulted in ample career opportunities at various levels.

Agricultural Biotechnology: Application of biotechnology in agriculture has become an indispensable tool to address the causes and consequences of climate change while achieving critical social goals. These include reducing poverty, improving global food security, and minimising the environmental impact of agriculture. Hence, agricultural biotechnology is a vital field that can aid in building a sustainable future and preserving the planet's health. Agricultural biotechnology offers opportunities for both mitigating and adapting to environmental changes. For example, products, developed using agricultural biotechnology have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One such method is the use of cover crops that provide sustainable biofuels, and fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer, thus reducing food waste. Additionally, researchers are exploring methods for extracting excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using trees and even microbes. Agricultural biotechnology presents a valuable tool for plant and animal breeders seeking to rapidly develop crops and livestock that are better adapted to changing environmental conditions, such as drought, higher temperatures, new diseases, and other environmental stresses. By utilising agricultural biotechnology, breeders can contribute to the mitigation and adaptation of climate change while simultaneously increasing the sustainability of the food system. The United States has established itself as a leading nation in the field of agricultural research and development, aiming to enhance farm output while promoting a climate-smart use of natural resources. The use of agricultural biotechnology represents an evidence-based, science-driven approach to expanding the toolbox of farmers, fishermen, and other producers. By enabling them to produce more with fewer inputs and resources such as land and water, agricultural biotechnology serves as a solution to meet the growing needs and challenges facing the food system. A focus on increasing agricultural production not only minimises the environmental impacts of agriculture but also has the potential to alleviate poverty, improve food security and nutrition, and raise living standards.

Carbon Capture and Storage: One of the major contributors to climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), into the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can help reduce CO2 emissions from power plants and other industrial sources by capturing and storing the carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere. CCS technology can also help to reduce the carbon footprint of the country and contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change.

Biorefineries: Biorefineries are facilities that convert renewable biomass resources into a range of products, including biofuels, chemicals, and materials. Biorefineries can play a key role in reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuels, which are a major contributor to climate change. In India, there are already several biorefineries in operation, and the government is supporting the development of more of these facilities to help reduce the country's carbon footprint.

Biodegradable Materials: Biodegradable materials, such as bioplastics, are made from renewable resources and can be broken down by natural processes. This makes them a more sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics, which can take hundreds of years to decompose. Biodegradable materials are becoming increasingly popular in India, and the government is encouraging the development of this technology to help reduce the country's carbon footprint.

Renewable Energy: Biotechnology can also play a role in the development of renewable energy sources, such as biofuels and biogas. Biofuels are made from renewable biomass resources and can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels, helping to reduce the country's carbon footprint. Biogas, which is produced from the breakdown of organic waste, can also be used as a source of renewable energy.

Waste Management: Biotechnology can also help to improve the management of waste, reducing its impact on the environment. For example, bioreactors can be used to break down organic waste into useful by-products, such as compost and biogas. In addition, biotechnology can help to improve the efficiency of waste treatment facilities, reducing the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of and reducing the risk of environmental contamination. In contemporary times, biotechnology has emerged as a discipline with immense potential to play a pivotal role in addressing the far-reaching implications of climate change in India. Various biotechnological approaches ranging from carbon capture and storage, biorefineries, agricultural biotechnology, biodegradable materials, renewable energy, and waste management, have been identified as potential solutions that may contribute towards reducing the country's carbon footprint, and consequently, promote a more sustainable future. The Indian government, in acknowledgment of the vast possibilities of biotechnology, has taken a proactive stance and invested in the development of this field. Such efforts have been regarded as a significant step in the direction of facilitating a greener and more sustainable future for the country. Moreover, biotechnology offers young people an excellent opportunity to start their businesses with the support of Startup India. Many enterprising young people who dream of starting their businesses need more resources. As a result, their ideas, talents, and abilities go unexplored, and the nation loses out on wealth generation, economic progress, and job creation. Startup India is contributing to entrepreneurship and economic growth by encouraging individuals with the potential to create and launch their enterprises through proactive support and incentives at different levels.

(The author is Research Scholar in Biotechnology, Himalayan University Dehradun. She can be reached at ankitashrivastav062@gmail. com)

 Views expressed are personal.