Every Drop Counts: Water-wise solutions from biotechnology at Green Week 2012

22.05.2012


Every Drop Counts: Water-wise solutions from biotechnology at Green Week 2012

Brussels, 22 May 2012

Europe has a responsibility to dramatically reduce its water usage and avoid pollution if we are to contribute to reducing the effects of drought such as crop failure, food shortages and increasing food prices.  This is the main message from the European Commission at Green Week, which is taking place in Brussels this week. Over the past decade, this conference has established itself as an unmissable event for anyone interested in protecting the environment.

The problems of water scarcity are compounded when put into the context of the UN FAO projections that 70% more food will be needed to feed the global population by 2050. However, thanks to advances in biotechnology research, several tools are available to help Europe meet the challenges of reducing water usage and food scarcity and ensuring that our water is cleaner and safer to use.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of all water usage worldwide.  If current trends continue, predicted water shortages will be the single most significant constraint on crop production over the next 50 years, particularly in drought-prone areas, such as southern Europe or sub-Saharan Africa.  Biotech crops already play a significant role in enabling farmers around the world to use water more sustainably. Less ploughing is necessary with herbicide-tolerant biotech crops, which helps to keep moisture in the soil.  The first drought-resistant biotech maize has already been planted in the United States, which will help farmers cope with water scarcity.  This can make all the difference to farmers in dry areas.  Less ploughing also ensures less fossil fuel use, fewer carbon dioxide emissions and less soil erosion.  However, to date European farmers are not able to contribute to these environmental improvements through the cultivation of biotech crops as only one biotech maize event can be  grown in Europe, and many countries have national bans in place.

Cleaner and more efficient industrial processes are also essential to maintaining our water supply for general consumption as well as for agricultural uses.  Thanks to industrial biotechnology processes, at all steps of the supply chain - from producers to consumers - actions can be taken to save water.  Since the introduction of biotech enzymes into detergents, getting the laundry done has become a more resource efficient process.  These enzymes allow clothes to be washed at lower temperatures, reducing energy use, washing time and hence water consumption. The environmental impact of waste water is also minimised since the enzymes are bio-degradable and can replace traditional non-biodegradable chemicals. In fact, the realisation of the bioeconomy in Europe will ensure that the production of many  items such as plastics, fuels, textiles and chemicals use less water and other scarce resources making our industries more sustainable and competitive whilst at the same time helping to protect the environment.

“With a global population of seven billion and one billion people living in chronic hunger, we in Europe cannot ignore the problems of food scarcity and clean water shortages,” remarked Nathalie Moll, Secretary General of EuropaBio while attending the EU Commission Green Week conference.  “The path forward is clear - we all, including Europe, have a responsibility to produce more food and use water more efficiently.  Biotechnology processes and products have a crucial role to play in meeting these life-threatening challenges and it is essential that they reach the market in Europe as well so that we, as European citizens can meet our responsibility in providing a more sustainable future for Europe and the world.”

~ENDS~

Links

European Commission Green Week homepage: http://www.greenweek-2012.eu/home

EuropaBio Factsheet: Water wise solutions from Agricultural Biotechnology

EuropaBio Factsheet: Building a bioeconomy for Europe in 2020

 

For further information, please contact:

Joanna Dupont Inglis

Director, Industrial Biotechnology

Tel: +32 2 739 11 84

Gsm: +32 476 607 135

Email: j.dupont@europabio.org

 

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas

Director, Green Biotechnology Europe

Tel: +32 2 739 11 85

Gsm: +32 473 890 359

Email: c.dmsarvaas@europabio.org

Blog: www.seedfeedfood.eu

Twitter: @EuropaBio and @SeedFeedFood

 

Rosalind Travers

Communications & National Associations Officer

Tel: +32 2 739 11 73

Gsm: +32 478 680 301

Email: r.travers@europabio.org

 

Molly Hurley-Dépret

Communications Officer, Green Biotechnology Europe

Tel: +32 2 739 11 62
Gsm: +32 473 334 875
Email: m.hurley@europabio.org

Blog: www.seedfeedfood.eu

Twitter: @EuropaBio and @SeedFeedFood

 

 

About EuropaBio

EuropaBio's mission is to promote an innovative and dynamic biotechnology industry in Europe. EuropaBio, (the European Association for Bioindustries), has corporate and associate members operating worldwide, as well as Bioregions and national biotechnology associations who in turn represent some 1800 small and medium sized enterprises. http://www.europabio.org/

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