Environmental Biotechnology: Theory and Application / Edition 1

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Biotechnology has come to play an increasingly important role in many aspects of everyday life. Once an expensive and largely unfamiliar option, it has now become a realistic alternative to many established approaches for manufacturing, land remediation, pollution control and waste management. The application of biologically-engineered solutions to environmental problems has become far more readily acceptable in principle and biotechnology, in general, more widely understood, but there remains some uncertainty amongst practitioners regarding how and where the microscopic, functional level fits into the macroscopic, practical applications. It is precisely this gap which the book sets out to fill.

Environmental Biotechnology: theory and application takes a thematic and environmentally focused approach, and breaks away from traditional rigid divisions to provide a unified exposition of the subject and an accurate reflection of environmental biotechnology in current practice. Dividing the topic into logical strands covering pollution, waste and manufacturing, the book examines the potential for biotechnological interventions and current industrial practice, with the underpinning microbial techniques and methods described, in context, against this background. Each chapter is supported by located case studies from a range of industries and countries to provide readers with an overview of the range of applications for biotechnology.

This book is essential reading material for undergraduates and Masters students taking modules in Biotechnology or Pollution Control as part of Environmental Science, Environmental Management or Environmental Biology programmes. It is also suitable for professionals involved with water, waste management and pollution control.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...The book’s main qualities are as a textbook for the advanced years of university environmental training..." (International Journal of Environment and Pollution, Vol.22, No.5, 2004)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470843727
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/27/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 9.21 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Environmental Biotechnology

Theory and Application
By Gareth M. Evans Judith C. Furlong

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-470-84373-X

Chapter One

Introduction to Biotechnology

The Chambers Science and Technology Dictionary defines biotechnology as 'the use of organisms or their components in industrial or commercial processes, which can be aided by the techniques of genetic manipulation in developing e.g. novel plants for agriculture or industry.' Despite the inclusiveness of this definition, the biotechnology sector is still often seen as largely medical or pharmaceutical in nature, particularly amongst the general public. While to some extent the huge research budgets of the drug companies and the widespread familiarity of their products makes this understandable, it does distort the full picture and somewhat unfairly so. However, while therapeutic instruments form, in many respects, the 'acceptable' face of biotechnology, elsewhere the science is all too frequently linked with unnatural interference. While the agricultural, industrial and environmental applications of biotechnology are potentially very great, the shadow of Frankenstein has often been cast across them. Genetic engineering may be relatively commonplace in pharmaceutical thinking and yet in other spheres, like agriculture for example, society can so readily and thoroughly demonise it.

The history of human achievement has always been episodic. For a while, one particular fieldof endeavour seems to hold sway as the preserve of genius and development, before the focus shifts and development forges ahead in dizzy exponential rush in an entirely new direction. So it was with art in the renaissance, music in the 18th century, engineering in the 19th and physics in the 20th. Now it is the age of the biological, possibly best viewed almost as a rebirth, after the great heyday of the Victorian naturalists, who provided so much input into the developing science. It is then, perhaps, no surprise that the European Federation of Biotechnology begins its 'Brief History' of the science in the year 1859, with the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin. Though his famous voyage aboard HMS Beagle, which led directly to the formulation of his (then) revolutionary ideas, took place when he was a young man, he had delayed making them known until 1858, when he made a joint presentation before the Linnaean Society with Alfred Russell Wallace, who had, himself, independently come to very similar conclusions. Their contribution was to view evolution as the driving force of life, with successive selective pressures over time endowing living beings with optimised characteristics for survival. Neo-Darwinian thought sees the interplay of mutation and natural selection as fundamental. The irony is that Darwin himself rejected mutation as too deleterious to be of value, seeing such organisms, in the language of the times, as 'sports' - oddities of no species benefit. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to suggest that he seems to have espoused a more Lamarckist view of biological progression, in which physical changes in an organism's lifetime were thought to shape future generations. Darwin died in 1882. Ninety-nine years after his death, the first patent for a genetically modified organism was granted to Ananda Chakrabarty of the US General Electric, relating to a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa engineered to express the genes for certain enzymes in order to metabolise crude oil. Twenty years later still, in the year that saw the first working draft of the human genome sequence published and the announcement of the full genetic blueprint of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, that archetype of eukaryotic genetics research, biotechnology has become a major growth industry with increasing numbers of companies listed on the world's stock exchanges. Thus, at the other end of the biotech timeline, a century and a half on from Origin of Species, the principles it first set out remain of direct relevance for what has been termed the 'chemical evolution' of biologically active substances and are commonly used in laboratories for in vitro production of desired qualities in biomolecules.

The Role of Environmental Biotechnology

While pharmaceutical biotechnology represents the glamorous end of the market, environmental applications are decidedly more in the Cinderella mould. The reasons for this are fairly obvious. The prospect of a cure for the many diseases and conditions currently promised by gene therapy and other biotech-oriented medical miracles can potentially touch us all. Our lives may, quite literally, be changed. Environmental biotechnology, by contrast, deals with far less apparently dramatic topics and, though their importance, albeit different, may be every bit as great, their direct relevance is far less readily appreciated by the bulk of the population. Cleaning up contamination and dealing rationally with wastes is, of course, in everybody's best interests, but for most people, this is simply addressing a problem which they would rather had not existed in the first place. Even for industry, though the benefits may be noticeable on the balance sheet, the likes of effluent treatment or pollution control are more of an inevitable obligation than a primary goal in themselves. In general, such activities are typically funded on a distinctly limited budget and have traditionally been viewed as a necessary inconvenience. This is in no way intended to be disparaging to industry; it simply represents commercial reality.

In many respects, there is a logical fit between this thinking and the aims of environmental biotechnology. For all the media circus surrounding the grand questions of our age, it is easy to forget that not all forms of biotechnology involve xenotransplantation, genetic modification, the use of stem cells or cloning. Some of the potentially most beneficial uses of biological engineering, and which may touch the lives of the majority of people, however indirectly, involve much simpler approaches. Less radical and showy, certainly, but powerful tools, just the same. Environmental biotechnology is fundamentally rooted in waste, in its various guises, typically being concerned with the remediation of contamination caused by previous use, the impact reduction of current activity or the control of pollution. Thus, the principal aims of this field are the manufacture of products in environmentally harmonious ways, which allow for the minimisation of harmful solids, liquids or gaseous outputs or the clean-up of the residual effects of earlier human occupation.

The means by which this may be achieved are essentially two-fold. Environmental biotechnologists may enhance or optimise conditions for existing biological systems to make their activities happen faster or more efficiently, or they resort to some form of alteration to bring about the desired outcome. The variety of organisms which may play a part in environmental applications of biotechnology is huge, ranging from microbes through to trees and all are utilised on one of the same three fundamental bases - accept, acclimatise or alter. For the vast majority of cases, it is the former approach, accepting and making use of existing species in their natural, unmodified form, which predominates.

The Scope for Use

There are three key points for environmental biotechnology interventions, namely in the manufacturing process, waste management or pollution control, as shown in Figure 1.1.

Accordingly, the range of businesses to which environmental biotechnology has potential relevance is almost limitless. One area where this is most apparent is with regard to waste. All commercial operations generate waste of one form or another and for many, a proportion of what is produced is biodegradable. With disposal costs rising steadily across the world, dealing with refuse constitutes an increasingly high contribution to overheads. Thus, there is a clear incentive for all businesses to identify potentially cost-cutting approaches to waste and employ them where possible. Changes in legislation throughout Europe, the US and elsewhere, have combined to drive these issues higher up the political agenda and biological methods of waste treatment have gained far greater acceptance as a result. For those industries with particularly high biowaste production, the various available treatment biotechnologies can offer considerable savings.

Manufacturing industries can benefit from the applications of whole organisms or isolated biocomponents. Compared with conventional chemical processes, microbes and enzymes typically function at lower temperatures and pressures. The lower energy demands this makes leads to reduced costs, but also has clear benefits in terms of both the environment and workplace safety. Additionally, biotechnology can be of further commercial significance by converting low-cost organic feedstocks into high value products or, since enzymatic reactions are more highly specific than their chemical counterparts, by deriving final substances of high relative purity. Almost inevitably, manufacturing companies produce wastewaters or effluents, many of which contain biodegradable contaminants, in varying degrees. Though traditional permitted discharges to sewer or watercourses may be adequate for some, other industries, particularly those with recalcitrant or highly concentrated effluents, have found significant benefits to be gained from using biological treatment methods themselves on site. Though careful monitoring and process control are essential, biotechnology stands as a particularly cost-effective means of reducing the pollution potential of wastewater, leading to enhanced public relations, compliance with environmental legislation and quantifiable cost-savings to the business.

Those involved in processing organic matter, for example, or with drying, printing, painting or coating processes, may give rise to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or odours, both of which represent environmental nuisances, though the former is more damaging than the latter. For many, it is not possible to avoid producing these emissions altogether, which leaves treating them to remove the offending contaminants the only practical solution. Especially for relatively low concentrations of readily water-soluble VOCs or odorous chemicals, biological technologies can offer an economic and effective alternative to conventional methods.

The use of biological cleaning agents is another area of potential benefit, especially where there is a need to remove oils and fats from process equipment, work surfaces or drains. Aside from typically reducing energy costs, this may also obviate the need for toxic or dangerous chemical agents. The pharmaceutical and brewing industries, for example, both have a long history of employing enzyme-based cleaners to remove organic residues from their process equipment. In addition, the development of effective biosensors, powerful tools which rely on biochemical reactions to detect specific substances, has brought benefits to a wide range of sectors, including the manufacturing, engineering, chemical, water, food and beverage industries. With their ability to detect even small amounts of their particular target chemicals, quickly, easily and accurately, they have been enthusiastically adopted for a variety of process monitoring applications, particularly in respect of pollution assessment and control.

Contaminated land is a growing concern for the construction industry, as it seeks to balance the need for more houses and offices with wider social and environmental goals. The reuse of former industrial sites, many of which occupy prime locations, may typically have associated planning conditions attached which demand that the land be cleaned up as part of the development process. With urban regeneration and the reclamation of 'brown-field' sites increasingly favoured in many countries over the use of virgin land, remediation has come to play a significant role and the industry has an ongoing interest in identifying cost-effective methods of achieving it. Historically, much of this has involved simply digging up the contaminated soil and removing it to landfill elsewhere. Bioremediation technologies provide a competitive and sustainable alternative and in many cases, the lower disturbance allows the overall scheme to make faster progress.

As the previous brief examples show, the range of those which may benefit from the application of biotechnology is lengthy and includes the chemical, pharmaceutical, water, waste management and leisure industries, as well as manufacturing, the military, energy generation, agriculture and horticulture. Clearly, then, this may have relevance to the viability of these ventures and, as was mentioned at the outset, biotechnology is an essentially commercial activity. Environmental biotechnology must compete in a world governed by the best practicable environmental option (BPEO) and the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC). Consequently, the economic aspect will always have a large influence on the uptake of all initiatives in environmental biotechnology and, most particularly, in the selection of methods to be used in any given situation. It is impossible to divorce this context from the decision-making process. By the same token, the sector itself has its own implications for the wider economy.

The Market for Environmental Biotechnology

The UK's Department of Trade and Industry estimated that 15-20% of the global environmental market in 2001 was biotech-based, which amounted to about 250-300 billion US dollars and the industry is projected to grow by as much as ten-fold over the following five years. This expected growth is due to greater acceptance of biotechnology for clean manufacturing applications and energy production, together with increased landfill charges and legislative changes in waste management which also alter the UK financial base favourably with respect to bioremediation. Biotechnology-based methods are seen as essential to help meet European Union (EU) targets for biowaste diversion from land- fill and reductions in pollutants. Across the world the existing regulations on environmental pollution are predicted to be more rigorously enforced, with more stringent compliance standards implemented. All of this is expected to stimulate the sales of biotechnology-based environmental processing methods significantly and, in particular, the global market share is projected to grow faster than the general biotech sector trend, in part due to the anticipated large-scale EU aid for environmental clean-up in the new accession countries of Eastern Europe.

Other sources paint a broadly similar picture.


Excerpted from Environmental Biotechnology by Gareth M. Evans Judith C. Furlong Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction to Biotechnology 1
Ch. 2 Microbes and Metabolism 11
Ch. 3 Fundamentals of Biological Intervention 49
Ch. 4 Pollution and Pollution Control 65
Ch. 5 Contaminated Land and Bioremediation 89
Ch. 6 Aerobes and Effluents 113
Ch. 7 Phytotechnology and Photosynthesis 143
Ch. 8 Biotechnology and Waste 173
Ch. 9 Genetic Manipulation 213
Ch. 10 Integrated Environmental Biotechnology 235
Ch. 11 The Way Ahead 269
Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading 279
Index 281
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