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Home » Biology Homework Help » Biotechnology » Environmental Biotechnology
Environmental Biotechnology
Environment consists of the sum of all the factors outside an organism. It consist of both biotic (other organisms) as well as abiotic (water, temperature, air etc.) factors. Thus for a given organism, other organisms constitute a component of the environment, while the organism itself becomes a factor of the environment of other organisms. The environment considered here is from the view point of man and, hence, regards all other organisms as components of the environment. The factors of environment, however, discussed here are only abiotic, since all biotic factors derive their existence either directly or indirectly from the abiotic environment. For example, virtually trapped in the form of chemical energy by photosynthetic plants and certain micro-organisms; they use CO2 as carbon source (photoautotrophs). However, some bacteria obtain energy from oxidation of simple inorganic compounds and use CO2 as carbon source; these are called chemoautotrophs. The remaining plants and animals obtain their energy by feeding on, generally, the photoautotrophs directly or on the animals that feed on photo-autotrophs.

Initially, man obtained all items of his need from nature, but with time he devised a variety of production systems to generate the various consumer products. The natural production processes generally use solar energy, are efficient in use of energy, produce materials containing mainly the elements C, N, H, O, P and S, and all the products are biodegradable. In contrast, man designed production processes are inefficient in energy use, use as raw materials virtually all elements present on earth, and many of the products of these processes are difficult to biodegradable, while many others cannot be biodegraded. In addition, these processes ordinarily generate by-products and/or effluents which are released in the environment often with damaging consequences. But natural production systems generally do not generate such damaging byproducts.

The man obtains from the environment his life support systems which include oxygen, energy, water, raw materials, nutrients and place to live. The three abiotic components of environment, viz. air, water and soil, contribute in various ways to the fulfillment of human needs. In turn, the various activities of man, e.g. domestic, agricultural, manufacture, transport, war efforts, accidents etc. generate wastes and pollutants which contaminate air, water and soil. The awareness to pollution generating effects of human activities has increased dramatically during the past 2-3 decades. In response man has strived to minimize the damaging effects of his activities on the environment by developing (i) technologies to clean up the pollution generated by other technologies (such technologies are often called ‘end of the pipe’ technologies) and/or (ii) production technologies which are ‘cleaner’ and generate less pollution (these are called ‘front of the pipe’ technologies). Both these approaches minimize damage to the environment. However, the term environment biotechnology is applied only to the ‘end of the pipe’ technologies using biological agents, i.e. biotechnological approaches applied to the management of environment problems.

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