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Canada boasts buoyant biotech sector

Canada grunge wood background with Canadian flag

By Andrew Casey, President and CEO, BIOTECanada 

The global population will increase to almost ten billion by 2050 while greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture continue to rise. We need to intensify food production while shrinking agriculture’s impact on the environment. Canadian biotechnology is helping farmers produce more food while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture. 

Biotechnology is changing the way we grow and consume food. It has brought us drought- and disease-resistant crops, plants that can be grown on marginal land and fruits and vegetables with improved nutritional profiles and visual appeal. 

Canadian innovators are creating new sources of energy and industrial applications, while reducing the environmental footprint of existing manufacturing and industrial processes. This sustainable intensification enhances the competiveness of traditional Canadian industries, such as mining, farming, forestry and oil and gas.

One of the promises of biotechnology is that it can help reduce the environmental impact of traditional manufacturing and industrial processes in agriculture, forestry, and chemical and automotive production. It also provides employment to compensate for lost jobs in the natural resources sector. Not-for-profit accelerators such as Bioindustrial Innovation Canada support the commercialization of clean, green and sustainable technologies. 

BioAmber in Sarnia uses green chemistry to manufacture succinic acid from glucose derived from renewable agricultural feedstock. Bio-succinic acid is used to make textiles, paints, food additives and a replacement for petro-ingredients in personal care products.  

Linnaeus Plant Science uses genetically modified castor plants to produce castor oil as a substitute for petroleum-derived products. These plants act as miniature factories to make vegetable-based motor oils, lubricants and hydraulic fluids that are biodegradable, renewable and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

CO2 Solutions in Quebec City markets technology it developed for the enzymatic capture of CO2 emissions from large sources such as coal-fired plants and aluminum refineries. The platform generates high-purity CO2 ideal for reuse applications and reduces costs, which makes it attractive to businesses as they prepare for the Federal government’s promised implementation of a carbon tax in the near future. 

The world sees Canadian biotechnology innovation delivering game-changing solutions to the global marketplace. Recent successes can be found throughout the spectrum of innovation with hundreds of small start-up entrepreneurs striving to bring scientific discovery to the global marketplace.  

Importantly, biotechnology is becoming more central to supporting the economic and environmental transformation of Canada’s traditional economic cornerstone and job intensive industries, namely: forestry; energy; mining; agriculture; aerospace; manufacturing and resource management.  Biotechnology innovation will support these sectors as they transform and compete in the emerging global bio-economy. 

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