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Benefits and Risks of Bioproducts


The potential benefits and risks of bioproducts
Understanding bioproducts means understanding the potentials, the promises and the pitfalls associated with these products and the technologies used to produce them.  The word "bioproducts” is a term of convenience that encompasses a wide range of products and processes.  It is difficult to make meaningful generalizations about such diversity.  Adequate consideration of the pros and cons of bioproducts may be most effective when each case is considered on its merits.  The following lists of potential benefits and risks highlight some of the promises and concerns that have been identified for bioproducts. 

                        Benefits                                                            Risks


          Environmental Protection
  • Reduced dependency on fossil fuels  and  petrochemicals.
  • Less greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reduced smog pollutant and toxic  chemical emissions.
     Diversification of energy sources
  • Use of Canada’s abundant biomass resources as a renewable feedstock.
  • A source of energy from municipal waste, which reduces problems associated with municipal garbage disposal.
   Use of organic byproducts and waste
  • Reduced amounts of effluent and solid waste.
  • Reduced contamination of air, water and soil.
      Invigoration of rural communities
  • Increased demand for forest, farm and aquatic products, building on regional strengths.
  • Localized production and creation of jobs in rural Canada.
   An Energy Resource for Developing   
  • More widely distributed access to energy, especially for many developing economies that have large biomass reserves.
  • Biomass processing technologies could be an export opportunity for Canada. 


              Environmental threats
  • Depleted biomass carbon stocks, increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations and contribution to climate change.
  • Reduced biodiversity.
  • Increased demand for fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, thus increasing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Some crops and micro-organisms are genetically engineered to produce bioproducts.  These require full regulatory analysis to avoid negative effects on ecosystems.
  • Fast growing, monoculture tree plantations could be more susceptible to disease, or could deplete local water supplies.
  • Industrial cultivation of favoured species could threaten biodiversity.
  • Increased particulate carbon emissions (soot) from wood burning.
        Land use and water use conflicts
  • Use of land needed to supply food crops
  • Use of land and water for biomass production that should be protected or reserved for other uses, such as wildlife habitat.


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