Biofuel, bioplastics and crops resistant to extreme weather, among the most noteworthy climate-change solutions from AseBio members

  • This Thursday is the next-to-last day of COP26 and the association believes it is important to remember that biotechnology can cut greenhouse-gas emissions up to 65% and has a direct impact on 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals

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Industrial biotechnology

This Thursday, coinciding with COP26 in Glasgow (2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference), the Spanish Bioindustry Association thinks it is important to remember that more than 160 of its members are working on solutions to climate change, aligned with 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030 Agenda. “Our sector’s innovativeness has given biotechnology a key role in improving quality of life for many people and in reaching new global goals, including cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 65% by replacing fossil materials with biological ones”, says AseBio CEO Ion Arocena. 

Genetic engineering gives us crops that are more resistant to extreme weather like drought and that also enrich the soil. Thanks to its tools, biotechnology can end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition. In that same line, it can introduce probiotics and prebiotics, detect food toxins and contaminants, helping ensure food safety and quality while making it healthier.

Sustainable water use and crops resistant to extreme weather

Water is a finite resource and this is why biotechnology is helping promote more sustainable water use through production processes and crops that help reduce agriculture’s water needs. It also ensures water is available and clean by purifying wastewater and identifying contaminants. Through biotechnology techniques, microorganisms, microalgae and cyanobacteria are used to purify and eliminate chemical contaminants from water. 

“Climate change is another added factor, since global heating will limit access to water as a result of the desertification of large swaths of land currently used for agriculture. Conventional commercial agriculture, based on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, doesn’t consider the importance of soil microbiology as an essential factor in plant health and vigour”, notes María Ángeles Vinuesa Navarro, head of the Mycology Department at Biomar Microbial Technologies (Biomar MT). This biotech firm in Leon has one of the most important collections of marine microorganisms in the world, which it is using to try to break down plastic materials, enrich depleted soil and stimulate plant growth in a natural, healthy way.

Clean energy with biomass 

The energy transition is another topic on the COP26 agenda, where leaders are trying to end the use of fossil fuel through an agreement among more than 30 countries. Biotechnology offers up alternatives to produce clean energy and ensure more efficient power use, as well as reusing urban and forestry waste and byproducts from certain industries, reducing their impact on the environment. “Biotechnology gives us effective technology for producing fuel and very low-emissions products”, begins Javier Gil, director of the Biomass Department at the National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER).


The processes that will be developed over the coming years include many examples in which biotechnology is applied using sustainable biomass to produce biofuels, bioplastics and biofertilisers, or by transforming CO2 into fuel and recycled-carbon products. “At CENER we are developing several of these lines because we believe in biotechnology’s potential to provide the sustainable, efficient, competitive solutions we need to tackle the climate challenge we are all facing”, the expert adds.

Defying plastic and protecting the oceans

Plastic is the subject of some of the most heated debates and industries are trying to stop using it. However, it’s still everywhere and used for food packaging. Biotechnology applications promote responsible consumption and production. Biological products are reused, recycled, turned into energy or can be composted, contributing to the circular economy. 

This is what they do at CICYTEX (Centre for Scientific and Technological Research of Extremadura): “We’re working to make the most of food waste. We use it to develop biopolymers that are biodegradable and compostable, for packaging and food items like fruit or meat products, that protects them from microbiological deterioration”, explains Jonathan Delgado Adámez, researcher in the centre’s Biotechnology and Sustainability Department. The expert concludes that microorganisms are used to do all of this, boosting industrial yield. 

Biomar MT focuses its research on bioremediation to clean human-generated waste from the oceans with microorganisms, hoping to keep us from having more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. One of the company’s experts, Vinuesa Navarro, warns that balance in the marine environment is being compromised by climate change and its consequences (melting polar ice caps, changing water salinity and temperature, changing ocean currents) and the increasing levels of contamination going into the oceans. “Oceans generate 50% of atmospheric oxygen, and they break down contaminants put into their waters, thanks to the multitude of microorganisms (bacterial, fungi and microalgae) that live in the marine environment”, she specifies. This AseBio member is trying to find a sustainable way to break down plastic and use those living organisms to improve people’s lives and the planet. 

AseBio, coordinator of European Climate Pact: a joint effort

Given the impact biotechnology has on fighting climate change, AseBio has been chosen as the national coordinator of the Climate Pact, which the European Commission has launched under the framework of the Green Deal. This initiative is helping the European Union meet its goal of being the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. The Pact invites individuals, communities and organisations to take part in fighting climate change, in the ecological transition and in building a greener Europe. Combining the political focus of the Green Deal and support for individual action under the Climate Pact, all levels of government and individuals can work together to limit human impact on the climate. 

EU Climate Pact Ambassador Jesús Iglesias Saugar firmly believes that inequality is at the root of the climate crisis, both the causes and the consequences: “So, effective climate action must inevitably work to build equity in all of its dimensions and the only way to achieve this is by including voices that have traditionally been ignored, through truly inclusive governance.”

For him, being EU Climate Pact Ambassador “is a great honour and responsibility” and represents belonging to a network and a platform that multiplies local impact and reinforces the international cooperation dimension of our mission, helping implement the European Climate Pact, the Paris Agreement and the SDG.

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Agathe Cortes

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Who we are 

AseBio brings together more than 290 entities and represents the Spanish biotechnology sector as a whole. Its mission is to lead the transformation of the country, positioning science, innovation and especially biotechnology as an engine of economic growth and social welfare. Its members include companies, associations, foundations, universities, technology and research centres that carry out their activities directly or indirectly related to biotechnology in Spain.