© 2019 Centre for Science & Technology Innovations

We link scientific innovation to the benefit of every day people: climate adaptation, biochemistry, biotechnology

How Would You Like That Wrapped?: Multiple Perspectives on the Biomaterials Debate

May 6, 2017

Biomaterials started with quite a bit of controversy: there is a finite amount of land available, especially due to growth in human settlements. Do we grow food or do we grow industrial materials? There is also the ethical dilemma of market dynamics driven by the high price of industrial materials versus the need to ensure food remains affordable to everyone, most especially those living below $1 a day.

In recent years, technological advances have led to new methods of biomaterial production that require less land: agricultural waste (using the waste from agroprocessing as industrial raw materials); nanomaterial (using biotechnology to develop edible composites and plastics from micro quantities of food such as mushrooms, potatoes, milk, and, fruit); agroforestry (addressing climate change by growing forests and learning how to farm in a forest - this way the same amount of land is used for both purposes). These advances are creating a new set of challenging choices:

If we place tarriffs and import restrictions on agricultural products from foreign countries, do we do the same with biomaterial food packaging even when we have overwhelming evidence biomaterial packaging is better for the environment than petroleum based plastics? If we allow biomaterial food packaging then what is the justification for agricultural tarriffs and import barriers?

Do we develop a biomaterials standard for food packaging in order to facilitate quality control and traceability across types of foods and various countries? OR, do we develop a set of biomaterials principles that enable a diverse plethora of innovation across types of foods, countries, and, regions?

Do we maintain our current dependence on large scale production and supply chains? OR, do we switch to a global system that integrates small scale production and supply in a way that enables the most diverse multi-sourcing combinations possible?

At CSTI we do not have the answers to these questions but we do know they need to be asked and invite collaborators who are interested in the same topics.  



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 CSTI - What inspires us:


We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners who believe that the scientific and technological knowledge we develop is a legacy trust we create for the community.

Some people are artists, others give inspirational speeches.  We deliver understanding that can be adapted to solve ecological and industrial problems.  The eagerness with which this understanding is received and used is what inspires us to do our work.

We  must treat the earth well. It was not given to us by our parents, it is loaned to us by our children.

Mtunze ardhi vyema. Hamkupewa na wazazi, bali mlikopeshwa na wazawa wenu. (Swahili)

 csti milestones: 


Sept 16, 1998:   Micro-Science kits were developed for schools and are still in use.


1997 to 1999:  Micro-Science kits were developed for schools and are still in use.


2010:  Conclusion of our Sakai Community Resilience to Drought project in which over US $300,000 total funding was leveraged to develop a replicable model for community resilience to drought.  The model was adopted by Kenya government. (See IISD website for additional details)

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