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