Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education Website Archive

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Environment

Biotechnology has the potential to have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. It can be used to support work on recovering threatened species and controlling or even eradicating introduced predators and pests. Organisms can even be engineered to remove wastes and pollution from the environment.

This section highlights case studies where biotechnology is being used to address some environmental issues. It is important to consider the ideas that scientific decisions are never without risk and that they can be coloured by the particular world-view of the scientists who are trying to solve the problem. For example, a palaeontologist who studies the history of the earth over millions of years, brings a very different understanding of species extinction to an environmental debate than an environmental biologist.

It is also important to think about actions taken based on conflicting advice and how they are weighed up, as these decisions may have the potential to deprive future generations of their right to determine some aspects of their lives.

Biotechnology as it relates to the environment usually means introducing a new organism into an existing situation. The food and agriculture section of Biotechnology Online also investigates case studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the potential environmental impact of releasing these organisms. It is important to make a proper assessment of risks and benefits before the release of any bioengineered organism to prevent environmental damage and to preserve our biodiversity.

Humans and the environment - work sheet [PDF 65kb | 2 pages]