by Staff reporter

Enabling a cost-effective conscience

Relentlessly enabling a better world through responsible biotechnology

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Ask anyone in the agricultural sector how seriously they take their responsibility to create a sustainable and environmentally friendly environment and you’ll get a fair bit of nodding, some mumbling about future plans but not a whole lot of action.

One of the reasons for lack of change, up until now, has been costs. There’s no question that changing from the current toxic, corrosive chemicals commonly used, to environmentally friendly options has in the past meant high prices. Whatever the thinking has been up to now one thing’s apparent for the very near future, and that is with upcoming EU legislation looming the industry will be forced to make changes.

Don’t wait to be pushed…

“It’s a pity it takes legislation to ‘force’ people to change their way of operating,” explains Humberto Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx Chemical Technologies. “This will mean huge challenges for the local agricultural industry but people are going to be caught with their pants down if they’re not already leaders in their market.”

To compound the issue of providing food and goods that meet the EU criteria, another serious problem is the resistance that pathogens have developed to conventional chemicals. Our delicate ecosystems are being affected, with the cumulative side effects of harmful chemicals becoming immeasurable. There has been much ‘window-dressing’ in this regard but has there been real change?

Green washed

The ‘green industry’ up to now has been plagued by what’s been dubbed ‘greenwashing’—false or misleading claims made for products that don’t perform or are proven ineffectual. Terms such as organic and natural are often unclear and can be misleading. “These types of claims need to be clear and unambiguous,” explains Rodrigues. “After all there are clear objectives—to ensure our planet and the people who live on it are not harmed.”

The bottom line is that without sustainable agriculture, future generations will be unable to meet their needs. Everyone in the agricultural chain can play a role in ensuring sustainability, from the growers and food processors to distributors, retailers, waste managers and ultimately the consumer.

Game changers

These early adopters, innovators - are leading the way with their approach to finding practical, environmentally friendly solutions that won’t harm our fragile ecosystems. Some companies have successfully implemented change by using eco-friendly microbial control ‘green’ biocides, disinfectants and alternative methods for water treatment. “For the first time there’s a viable alternative for a real change without weighing heavily on costs. With recent innovations and advancements made in technology and biotechnology the outdated stigma that responsible practices are more expensive has all but fallen away. Now there’s no excuse,” explains Rodrigues.

The good news is that gradually more organisations are making an effort to find real solutions, setting themselves apart in the fight for real change and long term solutions.

The cost factor

“If there can be money-wise solutions to industry that are valid for all economic areas, there will be adoption,” explains Jeannette van der Lith, Managing Director of Fisol. “Some ‘green’ options in the past came at an unaffordable price. But in the end consumer driven awareness will see people taking their spend somewhere else if manufacturers and farmers don’t become more environmentally conscious,” she adds.

Biodx, with technical support from the CSIR and financial support from the TIA (Technology Innovation Agency) has spent the last 12 years researching and developing antimicrobial technologies using a natural citrus extract. “With the critical focus on protecting our environment and responsible business practice we believed a natural disinfectant would be an invaluable alternative to the current market offering in this space,” says Rodrigues. “And at the same time make this cost effective.”

Working in harmony with the natural environment

“Nature is remarkable,” says Rodrigues, “It holds the answers we need, and we mess with it at our peril. In our arrogance, we thought we could improve on nature, exploit it for our own ends, and it has cost us dearly in the remedial measures that need to be taken to clean up the damage we have done. The ridiculous truth is that working with nature benefits everybody, financially as well as morally. We need all other forward-looking, courageous companies to lead the way to a new kind of thinking.”

According to van der Lith, “These new environmentally friendly products are absolutely crucial. We need South African developed solutions for a wide range of industries, which not only offer future export potential, but are an immediately available solution to the food and agriculture industry with immediate cost benefits and quantifiable environmental results.”

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