Novozymes position statement on industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology can improve the efficiency of processes both in industry and in everyday life, by saving energy, water and other raw materials while reducing waste. It is an important tool to create better lives in a growing world.

Biotechnology is the use of living cells to make useful products. For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed the benefits of using bacteria, yeasts, molds and the enzymes these produce, to make bread, cheese, beer and wine. 

Nowadays, enzymes and microorganisms are used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products. From low-temperature laundry detergents and margarine without trans fats to renewable fuels and antibiotic-free chicken feed. Mankind’s knowledge of fermentation and other biological processes has increased tremendously. Since the 1980s, gene technology has made industrial biotechnology even more efficient and made it possible to produce enzymes with new and better capabilities. 

Novozymes finds that industrial biotechnology and gene technology can contribute to the sustainable development of society by offering:

  • Lower environmental impact through better, more efficient and cleaner industrial processes 
  • More food, feed and fiber from the same resources and land use
  • Renewable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and chemicals
  • New and better products for human and animal health

Novozymes is committed to share its knowledge about the potential of biology and industrial biotechnology with the public and other stakeholders outside of Novozymes. 

Novozymes’ use of industrial biotechnology

Novozymes produces a wide range of enzymes and microorganisms. Gene technology is used to make some of these products.

Enzymes

Enzymes are proteins, and in nature they initiate biochemical reactions in all living organisms. It is enzymes that convert the food in our stomachs to energy and turn the falling leaves in the forest to compost. Novozymes finds enzymes in nature and optimize them for use in industry. In industry, enzymes replace chemicals and accelerate production processes. They help our customers make more from less, while saving energy and generating less waste.

Novozymes produces enzymes by fermenting microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. The microorganisms grow in closed steel tanks containing oxygen and nutrients like corn starch, sugar and soy. As the microorganisms grow, they produce the enzymes. 

The microorganisms can be genetically modified to more efficiently produce the enzymes. Novozymes uses well tested and safe microorganisms only, and at the end of the production process the microorganisms are separated from the enzymes and inactivated. The waste biomass is rich in nutrients and can be recycled as a fertilizer on local farms.

Novozymes also uses gene technology to make the enzymes perform better, e.g. at low temperatures for use in a laundry detergent. This is known as protein engineering and involves changing the structure of the enzyme, so it better fits its purpose. Like a key that fits a lock. 

As enzymes are proteins, not living organisms, they contain no genetically modified organisms.  

Microorganisms

Novozymes produces microorganisms for use in agriculture, cleaning and wastewater treatment. In agriculture, microorganisms can increase crop yields and help the farmer save on fertilizer and pesticides. In biodegradable cleaning products, microorganisms reduce the environmental impact of cleaning. In wastewater treatment, microorganisms lower effluent and remove pollutants. 

These products are based on naturally occurring microorganisms, which are not genetically modified. 

Novozymes also makes yeast that is used in the fuel ethanol industry to get more fuel from the same raw materials. The yeast is used by our partners in closed production systems. The yeast can be naturally occurring or genetically modified.

New technologies

Novozymes embraces new genome editing tools such as CRISPR that make genetic modification more precise and efficient. We only use tools that are demonstrated safe for humans and the environment. Novozymes does not engage in the creation of “artificial life”, i.e. the design of cells or organisms that are not derived from existing natural sources, or the construction of totally new species.

 

Last revised May 2017