Life cycle assessment – an important tool for the evaluation of the environmental impact of an in vitro production system (Inês Ferreira)
Over the last decade there has been an increasing demand for natural products and plant-derived drugs, which are considered by some people to be less toxic and free from side effects when compared to synthetic drugs. With worldwide growing interest in plant derived medicines, there has been a corresponding increase in the demand for raw materials. In vitro culture technology is a suitable method for large scale production of these plants within a short period of time. Micropropagation of plants using shoot tip or axillary bud culture enables multiplication of genetically stable and trueto-type progeny. Therefore, this technique has great potential as a production system for fruits, vegetables, floriculture, silviculture and plant biotechnology. Despite the importance of in vitro plant propagation, there appear to have been no studies on its environmental impact. However, studies on agricultural systems have revealed negative environmental consequences, including global climate change and energy use, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and the spread of 'super weeds'. Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology provides a tool to evaluate the environmental impact of current agricultural production systems and their respective products. Consequently, it is vital to perform an LCA on in vitro plant culture technology, in order to evaluate the environmental impact of the whole production chain and identify the impact and the importance of a specific process. The creation of a partnership between Voz da Natureza and BLC3 Association was established, with the aim of identifying the impact of each process within the in vitro production process. This knowledge would enable the production of added-value products from native Mediterranean flora, which is supported by quality criteria and sustainable production indicators.
Inês Ferreira won an ISHS student award for the best poster at the IX International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and Horticultural Breeding in Egypt in March 2016.
The full article is available in Chronica Horticulturae