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Published: December 2010
Biotechnology is now a general term used for a variety of naturally based techniques to produce, transform or degrade/eliminate substances.
This study initially provides an overview of the sources, market size and application areas of some 37 products considered natural or bio-based. Of the products produced through a direct fermentation process, six (citric acid, glutamic acid, lactic acid, lysine, polyhydroxyalkanoates, and threonine) were selected for detailed market analysis including industry structure, business environment, players, markets, trends, issues and factors impacting the future development of the business.
The production of biotechnology-based chemicals, while still a niche operation in terms of global chemical production, is demonstrating double-digit growth. Enabled by rapid advances in industrial biotechnology and significant increases in the price of crude oil over recent years, the number of biotechnology-based chemicals within the sights of commercial producers is increasing.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates are expected to show a double-digit annual growth rate; however, this prediction is associated with certain insecurity. Lactic acid is also expected to show an above-average rate of growth, fueled by the high potential seen in polylactic acid (PLA) development as it is at present one of the most promising biopolymers.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of the six major biotechnology-based chemicals examined in this report:
China is the world's largest producer of citric acid, followed by Western Europe and the United States. Chinese production accounted for about 55% of world production. Citric acid is used primarily in the food/beverage industry.
Glutamic acid is the largest-volume amino acid produced in the world. Glutamic acid, most of which is converted into MSG, is produced by microbial fermentation. Glutamic acid production and consumption is concentrated in Asia including China, where feedstocks and labor are abundant and inexpensive and where demand is highest.
Demand for lactic acid is linked to various industries and products, the most interesting of which are polylactic acid (PLA) plastics. However, high brittleness and the cost of PLA are the major issues determining the penetration rate of PLA in applications such as packaging.
The dominant end use for lysine is animal feed, which accounted for more than 99% of lysine use worldwide in 2009. Lysine, an essential amino acid, is an important supplement in swine and poultry feeds. China, Western Europe, and North America are the major consuming regions.
The market for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), a bio-based, compostable thermoplastic, is nascent. Consumption is expected to increase substantially in the next five years, thanks in part to a significant rise in production capacity.
Threonine is an important amino acid for animal feed, after lysine and methionine. Corn is the commonly used starting raw material for threonine production. Threonine is used mainly as a feed additive.
In recent years, biotechnology has expanded in sophistication, scope, and applicability, with four main types—white, green, blue, and red:
- White biotechnology deals with the use of biological organisms to produce or manipulate events in a way that is beneficial for industry. This can include biological production of new or old chemicals (e.g., acids) and materials (e.g., plastic), or biological degradation/conversion/elimination of unwanted chemicals or materials.
- Green biotechnology, the oldest use of biotechnology by humans (i.e., selective plant breeding), applies to agriculture and involves such processes as the development of pest-resistant grains, disease-resistant animals and high-yield crops.
- Blue biotechnology encompasses processes in marine and aquatic environments for purposes such as increasing seafood supply and safety, controlling the proliferation of noxious waterborne organisms, and developing new drugs.
- Red biotechnology involves medical applications such as getting organisms to produce new drugs, aiding the body in fighting a disease, using stem cells to regenerate damaged human tissues and perhaps regrow entire organs.