Algae-plagued French beaches may mean big business
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For decades, Brittany has been plagued by green algae piling up on its beaches, causing serious health hazards to animals and humans. Now, the region hopes to cash in on the toxic seaweed by taking advantage of its rare biologically active compounds.
“The algae industry has already led to the creation of about 100 companies, creating between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs,” Hervé Balusson, the president of the algae development fund Breizh Algae Invest told news agency AFP Sunday during the second edition of the “Breizh Algae Tour” conference in the city of Nantes.
“But tomorrow it could represent the creation of thousands of new jobs.”
Although the algae has had an adverse affect on Brittany’s seaside tourism, the seaweed contains masses of nutrients including proteins, sugars and minerals as well as a number of biologically active compounds that could be used in the health, food and biotech sectors.
“It’s one of the few emerging sectors (we have),” Balusson said, referring to Brittany’s troubled economy that has been hit hard by subsidies being withdrawn from France's largely rural westernmost region.
According to Balusson, Brittany hosts more than 700 species of algae.
Maryvonne Hiance, the head of Effimune - a biotech group dedicated to immunomodulation in autoimmunity, transplantation and cancer - said the biotech sector is currently seeing a strong growth on the medicinal drug market, already representing 23 percent of the total output which is worth some €700 billion.
“And we expect to be able to surpass 50 percent” of that market, she said.
“Up until now, we don’t have any medicines derived from algae,” Hiance said, noting that “some algae, and in particular green algae, contain molecules that are liable to act on the immune system and increase its response.”
“We’re going to lend our expertise into the development of medication” of algae, Hiance said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)