What is biotechnology?

Contrary to its name, biotechnology is not a single technology. Rather it is a group of technologies that share two (common) characteristics -- working with living cells and their molecules and having a wide range of practice uses that can improve our lives. Biotechnology can be broadly defined as "using organisms or their products for commercial purposes." As such, (traditional) biotechnology has been practices since he beginning of records history. (It has been used to:) bake bread, brew alcoholic beverages, and breed food crops or domestic animals (2). But recent developments in molecular biology have given biotechnology new meaning, new prominence, and new potential. It is (modern) biotechnology that has captured the attention of the public. Modern biotechnology can have a dramatic effect on the world economy and society (3). One example of modern biotechnology is genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the process of transferring individual genes between organisms or modifying the genes in an organism to remove or add a desired trait or characteristic. Examples of genetic engineering are described later in this document. Through genetic engineering, genetically modified crops or organisms are formed. These GM crops or GMOs are used to produce biotech-derived foods. It is this specific type of modern biotechnology, genetic engineering, that seems to generate the most attention and concern by consumers and consumer groups. What is interesting is that modern biotechnology is far more precise than traditional forms of biotechnology and so is viewed by some as being far safer.)

Industrial Biotechnology
Industrial biotechnology applies the techniques of modern molecular biology to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of industrial processes like textile, paper and pulp, and chemical manufacturing. For example, industrial biotechnology companies develop biocatalysts, such as enzymes, to synthesize chemicals. Enzymes are proteins produced by all organisms. Using biotechnology, the desired enzyme can be manufactured in commercial quantities. Commodity chemicals (e.g., polymer-grade acrylamide) and specialty chemicals can be produced using biotech applications. Traditional chemical synthesis involves large amounts of energy and often-undesirable products, such as HCl. Using biocatalysts, the same chemicals can be produced more economically and more environmentally friendly. An example would be the substitution of protease in detergents for other cleaning compounds. Detergent proteases, which remove protein impurities, are essential components of modern detergents. They are used to break down protein, starch, and fatty acids present on items being washed. Protease production results in a biomass that in turn yields a useful byproduct- an organic fertilizer. Biotechnology is also used in the textile industry for the finishing of fabrics and garments. Biotechnology also produces biotechderived cotton that is warmer, stronger, has improved dye uptake and retention, enhanced absorbency, and wrinkle- and shrink-resistanceSome agricultural crops, such as corn, can be used in place of petroleum to produce chemicals. It has been projected that 30% of the

they die off or return to their normal population levels in the environment. After the bacteria consume the waste materials. A harmless strain of Escherichia coli bacteria. Environmental biotechnology can more efficiently clean up many wastes than conventional methods and greatly reduce our dependence on methods for land-based disposal. Waste can also be converted to biofuel to run generators. . that biopulping reduces the electrical energy required for wood pulping process by 30% (11). Microbes can be induced to produce enzymes needed to convert plant and vegetable materials into building blocks for biodegradable plastics (7). at test scale. For example. They introduce nutrients to stimulate the activity of bacteria already present in the soil at a waste site. can make insulin. Human Applications Biotechnical methods are now used to produce many proteins for pharmaceutical and other specialized purposes. Every organism ingests nutrients to live and produces by-products as a result. is an area of increasing interest. Through application of biotechnical methods. AIDS and cancer (6). a waste product of paper manufacturing. New genetic therapies are being developed to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis. In some cases. enzyme bioreactors are being developed that will pretreat some industrial waste and food waste components and allow their removal through the sewage system rather than through solid waste disposal mechanisms. given a copy of the gene for human insulin. It has been demonstrated. or add new bacteria to the soil. Different organisms need different types of nutrients. This methane can then be used as a fuel or in other industrial processes. Environmental engineers use bioremediation. The bacteria digest the waste at the site and turn it into harmless byproducts. methane can be derived from a form of bacteria that degrades sulfur liquor. Environmental Biotechnology Environmental biotechnology is the used in waste treatment and pollution prevention. in two basic ways. Gene therapy – altering DNA within cells in an organism to treat or cure a disease – is one of the most promising areas of biotechnology research.world’s chemical and fuel needs could be supplied by such renewable resources in the first half of the next century. Bioremediation. the broadest application of environmental biotechnology. Some bacteria thrive on the chemical components of waste products.Products of modern biotechnology include artificial blood vessels from collagen tubes coated with a layer of the anticoagulant heparin (12). the byproducts of the pollution-fighting microorganisms are themselves useful.

Summary . greater flexibility in growing environments. Biotechnology for the 21st century Experts in United States anticipate the world’s population in 2050 to be approximately 8. Increased crop yield.Microorganisms can also be modified to produce digestive enzymeDNA testing is also used on human fossils to determine how closely related fossil samples are from different geographic locations and geologic areas. the future of the world’s food supply. To avoid damaging environmentally sensitive areas. The Rockefeller Foundation is sponsoring research on “golden rice”. Malnutrition in underdeveloped countries is also being combated with biotechnology. expected to be for sale in Asia in less than five years. quite literally. such as rain forests. Rice breeders are using biotechnology to build Vitamin A into the rice. The results shed light on the history of human evolution and the manner in which human ancestors settled different parts of the world (13). or by increasing their resistance to plant diseases (14). A second phase of the project will increase the iron content in rice to combat anemia. National and International Biotechnology Policy National governments and international policy making bodies rely on food scientists and others to develop innovations that will create marketable food products and increase food supplies Economic success in the competitive international market demands that food production become more efficient and profitable. National governments and international organizations support food biotechnology as a means to avoid global food shortages. Many policy making bodies are also trying to balance support of the food biotechnology industry with public calls for their regulation. less use of chemical pesticides and improved nutritional content make agricultural biotechnology. but its surface area is not. will offer dramatic improvements in nutrition and health for millions of people. Similar initiatives using genetic manipulation are aimed at making crops more productive by reducing their dependence on pesticides. fertilizers and irrigation. a crop designed to improve nutrition in the developing world. which is widespread problem among women and children in underdeveloped countries. Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in poor countries. with little additional costs to consumers.Compounding the effects of population growth is the fact that most of the earth’s ideal farming land is already being utilized.7 billion persons. The world’s population is growing. Golden rice. we need to increase crop yields for land currently in use.

government. diagnostics. Almost all recognize that foods developed through biotechnology have already been part of consumers' everyday diet. Developments are underway in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals. as well as more nutritious foods. Several major initiatives are under way to strengthen the regulatory process and to communicate more effectively with consumers. often with greater speed. economy and the developing world in the new millennium. Biotechnology is at a crossroads in terms of public acceptance. Consumer and Food Industry Perspectives Surveys have consistently found that a majority of American consumers are willing to buy insect-protected food crops developed through biotechnology that use fewer chemical pesticides. Most of the industry leaders interviewed are quite enthusiastic about the benefits of biotechnology -. almost none feel that biotechnology should not be used because of uncertain. environmental cleanup. This partnership among the public and private sectors will support these emerging technologies that will prove vital to the U. Both the USDA and FDA have opened their regulatory systems to outside review and public comment. Many Americans have not yet formed a solid opinion on this complex issue. efficiency and flexibility (1). . household products. forestry. aquaculture.S. They express concerns that such labels would be perceived as a warning by consumers. International developments over the next few years will certainly have a major influence on the long-term viability of biotechnology.especially in terms of increased food availability. Most feel that biotechnology has already provided benefits to consumers. Their main concerns involve lack of consumer acceptance -. They express high levels of confidence in the science and the regulatory process.not the safety of the foods. The biotechnology industry. Biotechnology holds significant promise to the future but certain amount of risk is associated with any area.including consumers. Biotechnology is enabling these industries to make new or better products. These should further strengthen consumer confidence. and environmental protection. enhanced nutrition. potential risks. food processing and forensics to name a few. Biotechnology must continue to be carefully regulated so that the maximum benefits are received with the least risk. textiles. The future of the world food supply depends upon how well scientists. Most food industry leaders do not feel it is necessary to have special labels on biotech-derived foods. chemicals. In fact. that virtually every industry is using this technology. and the food industry are able to communicate with consumers about the benefits and safety of the technology. university scientists and others are also conducting educational programs (27). and the advantages so compelling. They clearly do not agree with most of the opponents' claims and tend to have almost no trust in such groups.The applications of biotechnology are so broad. Even Europe will soon find the real benefits of biotechnology compelling. They also worried that the need to segregate commodities would pose financial and logistical burdens on everyone in the system .

.Food industry leaders recognize a major need to educate the public about biotechnology. They look to third parties. Research shows that consumers will accept biotech foods if they see a benefit to themselves or society and if the price is right.taste. price. such as university and government scientists to provide such leadership. nutrition. How seeds and food ingredients are developed will only be relevant for a relatively small group of concerned. Their responses to foods developed through biotechnology are basically the same as for any other food . consumers. safety and convenience are the major factors that influence our decisions about which foods to eat.

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