Biotechnology using Seaweed

Biotechnology “is using living things to create products or to do tasks for human beings”. At present sustainable energy for the future is driving a lot of biotechnology. Seaweed is unlike pond scum growing on slow moving waters, sea weed is of the ocean. Both, however, is  created by the action of the sun, and according to the chemical construction, gives it its color. Biotechnology is taking this worthless looking untouchable substance and extracting its nutrients for it medicine, food and for use in the manufacturing of various products.


Seaweed comes in astronomical varieties, thought to number over ten thousand. Not all are appropriate for use in biotechnology, but many varieties have been in use for many years. The Japanese food industry uses nori, red seaweed, to wrap sushi. It goes by various other names dependent upon the geographical location. The uses too vary from country to country. In Scotland as sloke and in Wales as laver, it’s made into flat breads.

In the far eastern regions of the world, kombu and wakame are brown seaweeds used as flavorings for soups and stews. Sea lettuce and sea grass are eaten raw in salads in Great Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia.  Seaweed when sold commercially is usually dried. When reading food labels and the words hijiki, wrack, sea spaghetti, dulse, Irish moss or carrageen show up, don’t be alarmed, it’s only seaweed. As an example, carrageen is an ingredient in condensed milk and some form is probably in ice creams and other dairy products.


In a Scientific American article, Turning Seaweed into the Fuel of the Future, it states that Dupont and Bal (Bio Architecture Lab) received money from the Department of Energy to look into the feasibility of using seaweed as a fuel source. This supposedly is a better plant fuel source than ethanol. To finalize that operation, large seaweed farms where instead of soil as the growing medium for weeds, the salty sea is the natural growing medium, would be needed.  


Medicinal uses for seaweed have yet to be proven. Some of the alleged uses for the varieties digenea, ceramiales and rhodophya are as agents to rid the body of worms; the red algae dumontiaceae inhibits the herpes simplex virus but testing is yet to be done on humans, according to one online source. Carageenans have advanced further and are patented as anti-viral agents.

Whatever potential use seaweed will have on medicine on the future, it is fast becoming a food source. It is plentiful in vitamins, minerals and fibers and as some claim, quite tasty. Sushi enthusiasts will agree with that statement since Japan has been creating their sushi rolls for over 1,500 years.

The medicinal purpose of seaweed isn’t something suddenly discovered, rumor and talk of this ability has been known for centuries. The difference is that it was ignored by the official medical community. It’s well known that “many types of seaweed contain anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents” and therefor possibilities for cancer cures emerging from this use is being explored. It is alleged that the early Egyptians used seaweed as a breast cancer cure.

Seaweed is used as binding agents or emulsifiers in toothpaste and in jellies and emollients or softeners in cosmetics and in products sold for the skin. Seaweed is here to stay and its scope is now being researched further. A drawback is its appearance. Most know it as a slime that grows in stagnant water and the thought of eating it doesn’t go down most gullets easily. On the other hand, when consumers don’t know what’s in their delicious ice cream and other food and medicinal products, they’re not bothered at all; for better health, perhaps they should take a look.