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What is Biotechnology?

Hillary Cyril | Editor, TechAnnouncer

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Biotechnology is a vast field of science, involving the application of living organisms and living systems to produce or develop various products. Depending on the techniques and tools used, it often simultaneously overlaps with other scientific disciplines. The scope of biotechnology is thus very wide, encompassing plant development, microbiology, nutrition, and even applied genetics. The diversity of approaches to accomplish the same ends is what gives it the potential to grow so rapidly. Some of the most common uses of biotechnology are to manipulate the genetic makeup of living organisms; create a product capable of resistance to disease, or provide a living medium for diverse forms of life to explore and evolve.

One of the most important developments in the field of biotechnology has been the development of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the practice of changing the genetic structure of living organisms so that they can grow new characteristics or increase the characteristics already existing. Several forms of genetic engineering have been developed over the years, with some focusing on plant breeding and others on animal and fish development. New areas of biotechnology are constantly developing, as well.

Probably one of the most common uses of biotechnology is the production of genetically modified crops. These crops are modified to better serve the agricultural industry, creating new markets for farmers and increasing the efficiency with which crops are harvested and produced. This is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the agricultural biotechnology industry.

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Genetically altered organisms can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from feeding animals and preventing the spread of diseases to developing drugs to combat human diseases. The term ‘genetic engineering’ itself is vague, covering a wide range of methods and technologies for modifying DNA at the genetic level. There are two broad methods commonly used for genetic engineering today. One uses enzymes and another relies on proteins. Methods like viral genetic engineering and bacterial genetic engineering are emerging to the forefront as popular techniques used in biotechnology.

Another method of biotechnology found in agriculture is transgenic breeding, which involves using an insect or mammal as a surrogate. By modifying the embryo so that it contains the desired trait, the altering process changes the genetic makeup of the modified organism, which results in a new living organism. A great deal of research has gone into this method of agricultural biotechnology, resulting in crops that have increased food production efficiency, disease resistance, or enhanced pest control.

Biotechnology is still in its very early stages. The technologies are being applied to improve the quality of the food we consume and the methods used to grow crops. In the future, however, the scope of biotechnology will continue to expand as engineers perfect the technologies needed to cultivate living organisms. They will also create better ways to protect the interests of the public as well as provide solutions to pressing problems such as food and water contamination. Biotech businesses will continue to emerge to help solve these issues.

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