Generally, biotechnology is the use of living things (usually microorganisms and plants) or the products they produce to provide benefits for humans. One simple example of biotechnology products that are closely related to our daily lives is tempeh.
Environmental issues are one of the topics that are widely discussed among the young generation of Indonesia and the world today. Many members of Gen Z are increasingly aware that the environmental problems that occur today will be a big problem for their lives and their children in the future. They are aware that they will inherit environmental conditions that will not be able to support a more healthy and quality life.
When we think about how to deal with today’s environmental problems, which often cause long-lasting adverse effects, we must be able to look at opportunities that can offer the best solutions at this moment with long-lasting positive impacts. Biotechnology can provide Us with such a solution. Generally, biotechnology is the use of living things (usually microorganisms and plants) or the products they produce to provide benefits for humans. One simple example of biotechnology products that are closely related to our daily lives is tempeh, tape, or other fermented foods and beverages. In tempe, there are fungi, such as Rhizopus oligosporus, which grow on the surface of soybeans and change the structure, aroma, and taste of the beans into tempeh.
The same thing can also be done to produce other biotechnology products related to environmental sustainability. for example, In March 2016, scientists from Japan published the discovery of the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis they got from a plastic waste processing site in Osaka. These bacteria have adapted to the environmental conditions in which many plastic materials are found. sakaiensis is able to decompose polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is one of the chemical units used in producing plastic bottles. Imagine if we could take advantage of these bacteria’s ability to decompose plastic waste which is becoming a big problem today. Also imagine if there were other species of Indonesian indigenous bacteria that could be found from garbage disposal sites such as Bantar Gebang, Bekasi. That is one example of a solution that biotechnology can offer.
Phytomining, from the words phyta which mean plants and mining. is a method in environmental biotechnology that utilizes plants to extract certain minerals, such as cobalt, nickel, and iron from the bowels of the earth without the need to make large gaping holes in the ground. This matter has already been studied further and deeply by scientists in Australia who utilize the native Australian plant, Crotalaria novae-hollandiae, which has adapted to utilize cobalt from the soil. To be able to get pure cobalt from these plants, further extraction and purification processes still need to be done. Imagine if there were plants or microorganisms indigenous to Indonesia that were able to extract gold, copper, or nickel from the bowel of the earth without the need to open a new mining site.
Another thing that biotechnology can offer is genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Many people think that GMOs are failed products that are unnatural and harmful to our health. However, one example of GMOs that we often use is cotton that has been modified to include the gene of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterial gene is capable of producing a toxin that kills insect pests that corrupt cotton plants. When this bacterial gene is inserted into the genetic code of the cotton plant, the cotton becomes a GMO known as BT Cotton which is always avoided by pests because it is toxic to them. As a result, cotton production continues to increase, the money that must be spent on pest spraying is significantly reduced, and farmers will get good yields every year. This one product alone can contribute so well to the environment, to farmers, and the country’s economy.
There are still many biotechnology products that have been developed and can be utilized on a large scale in Indonesia. Unfortunately, not many Indonesian consumers are aware of the potential of biotechnology products, so the demand for biotechnology products in Indonesia is still very low when compared to the demand for similar products in other countries such as America and Australia. Biotechnology start-ups are still not widely developed in Indonesia, So Singapore always is the first place as a location for biotechnology development in Southeast Asia. All of this can change rapidly in the future if we start to realize the potential of Indonesia’s biotechnology and take advantage of that potential.