In this article, You will read Biotechnology and Applications of Biotechnology – for UPSC IAS.

Biotechnology

  • Biotechnology is the field that exploits living organisms to make technological advances in various fields for the sustainable development of mankind.
  • The European federation of biotechnology defines it as “The integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof and molecular analogues for products and services”.
  • Biotechnology is the use of an organism, or a component of an organism or other biological system, to make a product or process for a specific use.
  • It can include both cutting-edge laboratory techniques and traditional agricultural and culinary techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years.
  • Brewing and baking bread are examples of processes that fall within the concept of biotechnology (use of yeast (= living organism) to produce the desired product).
    • Such traditional processes usually utilize the living organisms in their natural form (or further developed by breeding), while the more modern form of biotechnology will generally involve a more advanced modification of the biological system or organism.
  • With the development of genetic engineering in the 1970s, research in biotechnology (and other related areas such as medicine, biology etc.) developed rapidly because of the new possibility to make changes in the organisms’ genetic material (DNA).
  • Biotechnology deals with industrial scale production of biopharmaceuticals and biologicals using genetically modified microbes, fungi, plants and animals.

Principles of Biotechnology

  1. Genetic Engineering: techniques to alter the chemistry of genetic material to introduce into host organism and thus change the phenotype of organism
    • (NOTE: The genotype is a set of genes in DNA responsible for unique traits or characteristics while the phenotype is the physical appearance or characteristic of an organism.)
  2. BIOPROCESS Engineering: Maintenance of sterile (microbial contamination-free) ambience in chemical engineering processes to enable growth of only the desired microbe/eukaryotic cell in large quantities for the manufacture of biotechnological products like antibiotics, vaccines, enzymes, etc.

Types of Biotechnology

  • Red biotechnology: This is the health branch and responsible, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), for the development of more than 250 vaccines and medications such as antibiotics, regenerative therapies and the production of artificial organs.
  • Green biotechnology: It is used by more than 13 million farmers worldwide to fight pests and nourish crops and strengthen them against microorganisms and extreme weather events, such as droughts and frosts.
  • White biotechnology: The industrial branch works to improve manufacturing processes, the development of biofuels and other technologies to make industry more efficient and sustainable.
  • Yellow biotechnology: This branch is focused on food production and, for example, it carries out research to reduce the levels of saturated fats in cooking oils.
  • Blue biotechnology: This exploits marine resources to obtain aquaculture, cosmetics and health care products. In addition, it is the branch most widely used to obtain biofuels from certain microalgae.
  • Grey biotechnology: Its purpose is the conservation and restoration of contaminated natural ecosystems through, as mentioned above, bioremediation processes.
  • Gold biotechnology: Also known as bioinformatics, it is responsible for obtaining, storing, analysing and separating biological information, especially that related to DNA and amino acid sequences.

Applications of Biotechnology

Biotechnology has numerous applications, particularly in medicine and agriculture. The applications of biotechnology include therapeutics, diagnostics, genetically modified crops for agriculture, processed food, bioremediation, waste treatment, and energy production.

Medicine
  • Biotechnology techniques are used in medicine for diagnosis and treating different diseases. It gives opportunities for the people to protect themselves from dangerous diseases.
  • The field of Biotechnology, genetic engineering has introduced techniques like gene therapy, recombinant DNA technology and polymerase chain reaction which use genes and DNA molecules to diagnose diseases and insert new and healthy genes in the body which replace the damaged cells
  • Genetic modification in mosquitoes can solve the problems of epidemic diseases such as dengue and malaria.
  • Artificial insemination is the artificial introduction of semen into the reproductive tract of a female animal. It is used extensively in breeding animals, such as sheep and cattle
  • Medical researchers believe that stem cell therapy has the potential to dramatically change the treatment of human disease. A number of adult stem cell therapies already exist, particularly bone marrow transplants that are used to treat leukaemia.
  • Stem cell transplantation was first used in the treatment of blood disorders and it was a breakthrough. Conventionally known as bone marrow transplan­tation, the stem cells responsible for production of the blood cells reside in the bone marrow
Agriculture
  • Biotechnology has played a major role in agriculture by altering genes, studying and cloning various crops in order to provide better quality products of foods ultimately improving our lives.
  • Hybrid Seeds, Artificial Seeds, Photosynthesis improver, Stress resistant crops and plants, Biofertilizers, Bio-pesticides are some of the potential applications.
  • Potential advantages that biotechnology can confer across a wide range of agricultural applications are in areas such as livestock management, storage of agricultural products and sustaining current crop yields, while reducing the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
  • Biotechnology offers a very promising alternative to synthetic foods and an improvement on conventional plant-breeding technologies. Combined with other advanced agricultural technologies, it offers an exciting and environmentally responsible way to meet consumer demand for sustainable agriculture.
Animal Husbandry
  • The application of biotechnology in this area, in increasing production efficiency through manipulation and control of physiological systems and improving the health and well-being of animals, assumes great significance.
  • Biotechnology is being harnessed in various aspects of the livestock industry to hasten breed development for improved animal health and welfare, enhanced reproduction, and improved nutritional quality and safety of animal-derived foods.
  • Various biotechnology methods are used in improving the breeding stock of animals. These include Artificial insemination (AI), Embryo transfer (ET), In-vitro fertilization (IVF), Somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the emerging technology on somatic cell nuclear transfer.
  • Artificial insemination is the deliberate introduction of sperm into a female’s cervix or uterine cavity for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy through in vivo fertilization by means other than sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilisation.
  • Embryo transplantation, used with cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep, aims to increase the number of offspring from a quality female.
  • Cloning embryos to artificially produce genetic duplicates of an animal has also become possible.
  • Direct manipulation and alteration of an animal’s genetic material— genetic engineering—has the potential to produce even more drastic changes in animal breeding. It is believed that genetically altered pigs may one day be able to provide compatible organs for emergency transplantation (xenotransplantation) into humans.
Food Processing
  • Modern Biotechnology is helpful in enhancing taste, yield, shell life and nutritive values. This is also useful in food processing (fermentation and enzyme involving processes). So Biotechnology is beneficial in erasing hunger, malnutrition and diseases from developing countries and third word.
  • Modern biotechnology products are commercially reasonable hence it can improve agriculture as well as food industry that will result in raise in income of poor farmers.
  • Biotechnology has a major application in the food sector.
    • Bread, cheese, wine, beer, yogurt, and vinegar are all made by culturing microorganisms and are really the oldest products of biotechnology.
    • It helps in improving the edibility, texture, and storage of the food; in preventing the attack of the food, mainly dairy, by the virus like bacteriophage.
    • Biotechnologists are also developing tests that will allow the detection of food-contaminating microorganisms and the toxins they produce, which may be present only in minute quantities.
    • Biotechnology also has applications in the detection of mutagens (substances that cause genetic mutations) in individual food products.
    • GM crops which have been approved for use in food items in select countries include corn, maize, soya, tomato, potato and papaya.
    • Latest innovations in biotechnology that fortify major staples with micro nutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron can be game changers for hunger problem in India.
Environment
  • Biotechnology can be used to tackle environmental issues like deforestation and air pollution
  • Biotechnology can help in finding out the level of Particulate Matter 2.5 in the air
  • Biotechnology is already providing a clean and renewable alternative to traditional fossil fuels, the burning of which contributes to global warming.
  • The benefit of environmental biotechnology helps us to avoid the use of hazardous pollutants and wastes that affect the natural resources and the environment.
  • Biosensors, which combine a biological component (such as an enzyme) with various electronic components to trigger a circuit when a particular type of chemical is detected. Biosensors are capable of detecting extremely low levels of proteins, hormones, pollutants, gases, and other molecules.
  • Biomarkers – It is an application of biotechnology in the environment that responds to the chemicals to Measure the effect of pollution caused.
  • Biofuels Biofuel is a fuel that is produced over a short time span from biomass, rather than by the very slow natural processes involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as oil. Since biomass can be used as a fuel directly, some people use the words biomass and biofuel interchangeably.
  • Bioremediation – is a process that uses mainly microorganisms, plants, or microbial or plant enzymes to detoxify contaminants in the soil and other environments.

LOTUS-HR Project

  • Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse (LOTUS-HR) project was initiated in July 2017 and aims to demonstrate a novel holistic (waste) water management approach that will produce clean water which can be reused for various purposes.
  • The innovative pilot-scale modular plant upon commissioning will treat 10,000 L of sewage water per day and will showcase a self-sustaining model for the end-user.
  • This pilot-scale facility will employ multiple technologies so that the data generated at the pilot scale becomes a toolbox of treatment technologies for replication at other sites in Delhi as well as other parts of India where similar drains exist. The rationale is that the mixing and matching of technologies from this toolbox will depend on the quantity (flow rate) and quality (pollutant load) of drain water, land availability, site accessibility as well as topography.
  • The LOTUS-HR project is jointly supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research /STW, Government of Netherlands.

Objectives:

  1. First objective is to produce ‘fit for purpose’ water qualities to offset the societal cost.
    • The program distinguishes between three types of water usage; households, industry, and urban agriculture.
    • The required treatment and reclamation steps will be determined by the water quality needed for safe and healthy reuse for each usage.
  2. The second objective is to reach a successful implementation strategy.
    • To be successful it is crucial that the local community is involved. Therefore special emphasis is placed on social acceptability in order to develop a framework that allows for the successful implementation of water reuse strategies.
    • By ensuring that all the water-related stakeholders are on heard, a broadly carried and thus socially accepted water reuse implementation strategy can be developed.  


Significance:

  • LOTUS-HR will demonstrate a novel holistic (waste-) water management approach for the recovery of water, energy, and nutrients from urban wastewater that is applicable for megacities all over the world.
  • In the Indian context, the project aims to demonstrate that by combining existing cost-effective technologies and targeting potential pollutants at the source, the sacred role of the river in Indian society can be preserved despite the anticipated rapid urbanization and associated water stress.

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Garima

Thanks!

Chari

Really amazing efforts! I have been following all your notes for a long time! Thanks a tonne!