Summary: The Role of Microorganisms in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
Harmful practices such as arbitrary use of chemicals, increased usage of non-renewable energy sources and uncontrolled generation of industrial waste has posed a great threat to the sustainability of the environment. The way forward is to embrace sustainable measures, cleaner production and green technologies in order to conserve the ecology of the earth for future generations and this is achievable through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is sponsored by the United Nations (UN). These goals are divided into five sub-groups namely; People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.
Dr Adenike Akinsemolu, in her presentation, defined microorganism as living things that cannot be seen with the ordinary eyes. Microorganism play important roles in green processes and technologies. If microorganisms are used legally and well, they can contribute to the sustainable development goals. The advantages of microorganisms in this context is, in spite of this, often underestimated. The presenter discussed how microorganisms can be deliberately used to play fundamental roles in achieving the SDGs.
The usages of some microorganisms in actualizing the SDGs were highlighted at the seminar. Production of Gobar gas, also referred to as Bio-gas, by methane-producing organisms such as Methanomonas, yogurt (using Lactobacillus delbruekii subsp bulgaricus), prebiotics and probiotics (using Lactobacillus acidophilus) and other organisms can be harnessed to achieve the goals under the people sub-group of the SDGs. Botryococcus can store up to 50% of the biomass in the form of long-chain hydrocarbons for the generation of electricity, Eremothecium ashbyii, used in riboflavin fermentation and Pseudomonas as well as Rhizobia used in the production of bio-fertilizers can facilitate the realization of the prosperity sub-group of the SDGs. Microorganisms used in bioremediation and Algae like Saccharomyces or modified Escherichia coli can be used for third-generation biofuel production in actualizing the goals of the planet sub-group of the SDGs. Microbial forensics can be used to trace perpetrators and sources of biohazard in combating bioterrorism while capacity building on trade-related aspects of microbes and microbial technology can help in achieving the goals of peace and partnership sub-groups of the SDGs respectively.
Dr Akinsemolu recommends that, to effectually achieve the targets of sustainable development, the most important actions are to be taken by the government through legislations and policies. Government should improve funding for research and development in order to promote micro-based industries. She also recommends that researchers should not only focus on the health benefits of using microorganisms, but also on other significant applications like production of fermented foods, microbial electricity and biocontrol agents among others.