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Checkbiotech: "White" biotechnology on expansion course
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: February 27, 2005 11:36AM ; ;

Unlike "green" biotechnology, the "white" variety is less well known -- and
less controversial. It's regarded as a global growth market, and one in
which German industry hopes to play a part, February 2005 by Gernot Jaeger.

"White" biotechnology -- which uses living cells like moulds, yeasts or
bacteria to produce goods and service -- has long ceased to be a futuristic
concept. Every day, millions of people buy products containing the
technology, such as washing powder which contains enzymes to make it more
efficient. These modern detergents work with less water and in lower
temperatures, meaning less waste water, and lower energy consumption.

It's a good example of the benefits of white biotechnology, according to
Fritz Brickwedde of the Bundesstiftung Umwelt, a national foundation for the

"We have three goals which we'd like to see realized alongside white
biotechnology -- the protection of limited natural resources, the reduction
of environmental pollution, and a more efficient means of production,"
Brickwedde said.

Political framework

The expectations are high. Studies predict that in just a few years, up to a
fifth of revenues from the chemical industry worldwide will come from
biotech products -- a market of over ?300 billion ($396 billion). Jürgen
Hambrecht, president of the chemical industry association, believes it's
important that Germany take a leading role in this market.

"In the area of white biotechnology, the German chemical industry wants to
continue to be a world leader, as we are today," Hambrecht said. "Whether
that will happen depends on how the political framework continues to

Hambrecht's concern is with white biotechnology's sister field, namely,
"green" biotechnology, or the planting of genetically manipulated crops.
"We're dealing with a kind of magic triangle here -- green genetic
technology, renewable raw materials, and white biotechnology," he said.
"Those who don't see this certainly won't be among those to help usher in
the future of this technology."

Migration abroad

In other words: Industry views Germany's laws on genetic technology as
overly restrictive. Hambrecht wants to be able to more easily plant
genetically modified crops, as only by pursuing this field can the progress
of white biotechnology be assured.

Hambrecht's main criticism is directed at Economics Minister Wolfgang
Clement, who responded: "As far as our legislation is concerned, in my view,
it is deserving of criticism. We held a critical discussion, so my
assumption is that we're in the midst of a process which could lead to
changes on the laws regarding genetic technology, and in my opinion, should
lead to changes."

The chemical industry clearly has a sympathetic ear in Clement. However, the
economics minister can't speak for the whole government, and especially not
for coalition partner, the Green party. After all, the Greens harbor the
most committed opponents to the cultivation of genetically modified plants.

The next assessment of the legislation's status is due to take place in two
years' time. The chemical industry is waiting with baited breath. Should the
laws not be loosened, Hambrecht predicts that German research and
development in the biotechnology sector will suffer, adding that it would no
longer be possible to rule out a brain drain of German talent to countries
with more relaxed legislation


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