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NZ biotech can solve global environmental and health challenges


On average, people are living longer, their lives are busier, they have poorer diets and exercise less which is leading to increasing rates of diseases and health conditions including  cancer, diabetes, dementia, heart disease and obesity, BioTechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says. 

Biotechnology can make a massive difference to helping people’s live. BioTechNZ has just released a substantive new research paper which analyses the state of biotechnology and its impact and benefits for the New Zealand economy and society.

Environmentally, the way New Zealanders live and make a living is having a serious impact on the natural surroundings. Environmental concerns include polluted waterways, native ecosystems under threat, the way the ocean is fished, greenhouse  gas emissions and climate change effects, the report says.

There is no argument that New Zealand, along with the rest of the world, faces extraordinary global environmental and health challenges. In almost all cases, biotechnology will be used to solve these problems.

Dr Champion says there are exciting opportunities. As the global population continues to grow, so does demand for food. Balancing an increasing output of high quality, healthy food with minimal environmental impact will be attractive to a global market concerned about food provenance. 

“Demand for less waste, reduced pollution and cleaner, healthier environments will require radical new technologies and processes.

“Globally, biotechnology is playing a crucial role in helping to develop solutions to these and similar challenges.  New Zealand’s small, world class biotechnology sector, will be able to deploy research and biosciences to help address these issues.

“New Zealand has the research capabilities and innovative companies. The increasing global demand across the biotechnology spectrum for solutions to health, agri-food and environmental challenges present New Zealand with multiple economic opportunities.“

Increasingly, consumers are demanding ethically focused products with the least waste or environmental impact. This is creating new markets for biotechnology that can help reduce waste or create value from waste. 

Bioremediation stimulates the growth of specific microbes that use contaminants as a source of energy. Bioremediation is a branch of biotechnology that employs the use of living organisms, like microbes and bacteria, in the removal of contaminants, pollutants, and toxins from soil, water, and other environments.

Bioremediation may be used to clean up contaminated groundwater or environmental problems, such as oil spills, the report says.

New Zealand is a leader in pasture research and development relating to seed production. New Zealand produces 6.7 percent of the world’s perennial ryegrass seed and 38 percent of the world’s white clover seed.  

Forestry is a significant industry for New Zealand as wood products are a $6.7 billion export earner. New Zealand has expertise in forest genetics biotechnology techniques to improve growth rates, wood quality and modified biomass such as bioplastics and biofuels.

Dr Champion says New Zealand’s high level of biodiversity and home to many endogenous plants provides an environment rich in desirable bioactives. 

Products range from high value nutritional food products through to functional foods and ingredients. New Zealand offers many significant advantages to the production of medicinal plants for the pharmaceutical and consumer health industry. 

“Our temperate land mass enables a great capacity for food production. In fact, New Zealand produces enough food to feed 40 million people worldwide – almost 10 times its own population.”  

For further information contact Dr Zahra Champion on 021 899 732 or NZTech’s media specialist, Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

BioTechNZ Our aim is to raise awareness and increase the understanding to enable our nation to embrace the best opportunities biotech offers to us daily, helping us live better, healthier and more productive lives.