Biotechnology is a branch of science that uses biological processes to create new products and services that benefit people’s well-being and the planet’s health. For almost 6,000 years, humans have depended on microbes to preserve dairy and manufacture food products like bread and cheese.
We can employ modern biotechnology to help feed the hungry, decrease pollution, fight debilitating and uncommon illnesses, use less of clean energy, and improve industrial manufacturing processes.
Biotechnology contributes to the healing of the world by harnessing nature’s toolbox and using the genetic make-up to heal and direct research by:
- reducing infectious disease rates and, thereby, saving millions of children.
- reducing the risk of severe, life-threatening conditions that affect a large number of people around the world.
- tailoring treatments to reduce health risks and side effects for individuals.
- developing more accurate methods for detecting diseases.
- confronting serious illnesses and daily threats in the developing world.
History of biotechnology
The first agricultural cultures began harnessing biological processes 10,000 years ago. About 6,000 years ago, humans used microorganisms’ biological processes to manufacture bread, alcohol, cheese, and dairy products. But that is not what biotechnology implies today, a term coined in the 1960s and 1970s to describe developing molecular and cellular technologies. In the mid-to-late 1970s, Genentech, established by Robert A. Swanson and Herbert W. Boyer, was at the forefront of the developing “biotech” industry. Companies including Genentech, Amgen, Biogen, Cetus, and Genex were the first to create GE products for medical and environmental applications.
More than a decade ago, genetic engineering dominated the recombinant DNA industry. It is possible to produce large quantities of proteins by splicing the genes of useful proteins (often human proteins) into production cells, and splicing a gene into a production cell results in creating a new organism. Initially, biotechnology investors and researchers were unsure whether courts would allow them to obtain organism patents; after all, patents on newly discovered and identified organisms were not allowed.
In the ‘Diamond v. Chakrabarty’ case, the Supreme Court declared man-made microorganisms patentable. After this decision, the industry saw its first investment boom and a new wave of biotechnology companies. In 1982, recombinant insulin received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the first genetic engineering product. Since then, companies have commercialised many recombinant proteins worldwide, including clotting factors, growth hormones, proteins that increase interferons, red and white blood cell production, and clot-dissolving agents.
Approaches and tools
Initially, biotechnology produced naturally occurring medicinal compounds in greater numbers than human cadavers or animal organs. Recombinant proteins are also less prone to infections and allergies. Biotechnologists are working hard to find the underlying molecular mechanisms of disease so that they can directly intervene at that level. First-generation biotech medicines may use therapeutic proteins to augment the body’s supply or to compensate for genetic deficiencies. Inserting genes encoding needed proteins into a patient’s body is known as gene therapy.
The biotechnology industry is also researching traditional pharmaceuticals and monoclonal antibodies to stop disease progression. Biotechnology’s successful development of monoclonal antibodies took place in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Monoclonal antibodies’ specificity and availability in quantity have facilitated the creation of sensitive assays for a wide range of biologically important substances and the identification of previously unknown marker molecules on their surfaces. Proteins, genes, and the biological pathways through which they act enabled these advancements.
Applications of biotechnology
There are numerous uses for biotechnology, including medicine and agriculture. We can employ biotechnology to combine biological and computer information, examine the use of nanotechnology to enter the human body and possibly use stem cell research and cloning to replace dead or defective cells and tissues. Companies and academic labs combine these disparate technologies to analyse molecules and synthesise chemical pathways, tissues, and organs from molecular biology.
Biotechnology has also proven effective in enhancing industrial processes, environmental remediation, and agricultural output through genetic engineering, all thanks to the discovery and manufacturing of biological enzymes that spark chemical reactions. In other words, there are various applications of biotechnology.
The most controversial biotech applications are in the field of agriculture. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are increasingly present in food supplies, and activists and consumer groups have called for laws requiring the labelling and banning of GMOs. The FDA approved bovine somatotropin (BST) for dairy cows in 1993. The FDA approved the first GMO food the next year: a shelf-stable tomato. Regulatory bodies in the US, Europe, and other nations have approved GMO crops that produce pesticides and can survive specific herbicides to kill weeds.
Scientists at the National Academy of Sciences and other institutions have concluded that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food are safe. The long-term implications of these crops on health and the environment are yet unknown. By 2014, the area planted with genetically modified crops had grown from 1.7 million hectares (4 million acres) in 1996 to an estimated 180 million acres (445 million acres) in 2014. The United States grew genetically modified cotton, corn, and soybeans in 2014–15. Genetically modified crops were primarily grown in America.
The term “biotechnology” refers to various procedures used to modify living organisms for human purposes, including animal domestication, plant cultivation, and “improvements” through breeding programmes that use artificial selection and hybridisation. We also use genetic engineering and cell and tissue culture technologies in modern times. According to the American Chemical Society, we use biological organisms, systems, or processes in biotechnology to enhance the value of materials and organisms, such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and animals. According to the European Federation of Biotechnology, it is the application of natural science and the study of organisms, cells, and molecular analogues to the production of goods and services. As a result, biotechnology provides methods to support and conduct basic biological research.