Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, signed a decree yesterday, February 8, outlining a development policy for the biotechnology industry in Brazil, which should make the country a world leader in biofuel.
In a speech to Brazilians but with an eye overseas, Lula said Brazil can show the world that planting fuel is the best way to get social justice while reducing the greenhouse effect. The Brazilian president said that he wishes to share with the other national the Brazilian way out of global warming."
In a more defiant and indignant mood he vowed that Brazil "will never again be a supplier of raw material to the global market." He went on to add that one his country's main priorities is to establish an alliance between biotechnology and energy derived from agriculture.
The Brazilian government believes that the country's biodiversity places Brazil in an advantageous position compared to other nations. Brazil's national program intends to make the country a global leader in biotechnology in 10 to 15 years.
According to the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, there are currently 1,700 groups in the public, academic and private sectors working in the biotechnology sector in Brazil. The national program will manage and provide support to these activities, as well as facilitate corporate access to research results.
Already in 2007, according to information provided by the minister of Development, Luiz Fernando Furlan, US$ 479.5 million in public funds will be available for biotechnology research in the country. The money will be provided by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and by sector funds, which are linked to the ministries and consist of tax revenues.
The plan was devised through debates between the private and public sectors, and will receive support from five ministries, all of which are somehow related to the area: Health, Development, Science and Technology, Agriculture and Environment. The goal is to encourage biotechnological applications in five different fields: health, food security, animal health, industrial products and environmental quality.
A national committee will be established, including representatives of the five ministries and of the academic sector, to monitor the development of the program. Biotechnology should foster production, and consequently employment in the country, in addition to opening new doors to the foreign market.
In fact, Brazilian biotech research has already shown promising results. The minister cited as examples the work of the Amazon Biotechnology Center – CBA, which developed natural coloring products for food and cosmetics, and the work of a factory, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, which produces sterile flies designed to eradicate fruit flies; these sterile flies are now being exported.
Brazilian biotechnology also led to the creation of new strains of sugar cane and soy, capable of thriving both in the country's dry and more humid areas, not to mention ethanol production, another result of biotech. Brazil is currently the leading ethanol producer in the world.
The new program should contribute to lessen Brazilian imports of medications, and help the country become an exporter of certain medical products. "In imports of vaccines against rabies alone, Brazil spends US$ 38.8 million a year," said Furlan.
The Ministry of Health already provides support to several programs aimed at innovation in medication. One such program is turned to the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals using marine microalgae.
Another program specializes in developing medication to treat neglected diseases, such as malaria. This type of work, as well as biotech work in the agricultural and the industrial sectors, should get a boost from the new government plan.
Yet another branch of the program targets universities. "Brazil graduates 10,000 doctors each year. We are going to steer these graduates toward our priorities, so their background matches ongoing projects," Furlan said.
Foreign resources and participation in biotechnological development is also welcome, according to the consultant for biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medication at the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI), Adriana Diaféria. Adriana explained that Brazil wants to show how advanced it is in the field, thus encouraging exchange with other countries.
The Brazilian Association of Biotechnology Companies (Abrabi) estimates the annual revenue of the biotechnology sector in the country to be between US$ 2.5 billion and US$ 4.3 billion. Of the 28,000 job positions created, 84% are in the micro and small businesses.
Below are the main stretches of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's address during the opening ceremony for the signing of the decree establishing a national biotechnology policy, and the creation of a committee for developing the sector.
Science and economy – "At the restless dawn of the 21st century, clear signs of emergency are knocking on our door. Even clearer is the realization that only the power of cooperation between democracy, science and economy will be capable of solving the social and environmental challenge facing us. Biotechnology should be regarded as a bridge connecting development and nature, leading us to the sustainable future we fight and yearn for."
Brazilian Biodiversity – "Brazil is home to 20% of all biodiversity in the world, and has huge forests, therefore our country is entitled to a privileged position in this new vector of development. The goal of our new national biotechnology policy is precisely to tap into this potential, so that 10 or 15 years from now our country ranks among the five largest global hubs for biotechnology research, services and products."
What will be done? – "We are going to produce medication and vaccines at lower costs. We will make biodegradable plastic. We will develop industrial enzymes to increase efficiency and decrease pollution. We will create more nutritious foods, and develop our own medications and cosmetics using biodiversity and environmental recovery techniques. Furthermore, we will aim for the future of biotechnology, investing in research DNA sequencing, neuroscience, stem cells, nanobiotechnology, biopharmaceuticals."
Brazilian agricultural energy – "Brazil is not and will never again be a supplier of raw material to the global market. The Growth Acceleration Program and the National Biotechnology Policy converge in another direction, as they set other priorities for Brazilian development in the 21st century. One of those priorities, of the highest importance, is the alliance between biotechnology and agricultural energy."
The planet – "We are capable of showing the world that planting fuel is the best way of harvesting social justice, at the same time contributing to reduce the greenhouse effect, which causes so much harm and dysfunction to our Planet. We want to share this way out of global warming with the world."
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