What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is “any technique that uses living organisms or substances from those organisms, to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific purposes” (Office of Technology Assessment, United States Congress).

Although the term sounds contemporary, biotechnology is not new. What is new, however, is the extent of applications and sophistication of biotechnology techniques currently employed. Researchers can manipulate living organisms and transfer genetic material between organisms. Genetic engineering, the specific modification or transfer of genetic material, underlies modern biotechnological innovation

These current applications of biotechnology are predominantly practiced in the fields of agriculture and medicine. Modern techniques allow for the production of new and improved foods. Biotechnology is also being applied in the areas of pollution control, mining and energy production. Genetically engineered microorganisms and plants are used to clean up toxic wastes from industrial production and oil spills. Biotechnology applications have also been introduced into the forestry and aquaculture industries. Genetic methods can be used to identify particular populations of endangered species. Thanks to biotechnology, minute traces of animal or plant remains can be used to track and convict poachers.

Overall, biotechnology has significantly impacted and improved the quality of life for people on this planet. And it doesn’t end there. Complementing the creative endeavors of researchers and engineers are the efforts to commercialize biotechnology products with the input of business management and marketing personnel. The expertise of intellectual property and patent lawyers are also a necessary component in the process. New career opportunities in the area of bioinformatics are on the increase.

There are many exciting opportunities for scientists and non-scientists in the biotechnology sector. It is apparent that biotechnology does and will have a strong impact in our world.




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