Biotechnology can be broadly defined as “using organisms or their products for commercial purposes.
Biotechnology utilizes cellular and biomolecular processes to create technologies and products that help improve our lives and the nature.
Traditional biotechnology has been practised since the beginning of records history. It has been used to, bake bread, brew alcoholic beverages, and breed food crops or domestic animals. But recent developments in molecular biology have given biotechnology new meaning, new prominence, and new potential.
Applications of 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.
Environmental biotechnology is the used in waste treatment and pollution prevention. Environmental biotechnology can more efficiently clean up many wastes than conventional methods and greatly reduce our dependence on methods for land-based disposal.
Every organism ingests nutrients to live and produces by-products as a result. Different organisms need different types of nutrients. Some bacteria thrive on the chemical components of waste products.
Bioremediation, is an area of increasing interest. Through application of biotechnical methods, 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. Waste can also be converted to biofuel to run generators. Microbes can be induced to produce enzymes needed to convert plant and vegetable materials into building blocks for biodegradable plastics
3.Biotechnical methods are now used to produce many proteins for pharmaceutical and other specialized purposes. A harmless strain of Escherichia coli bacteria, given a copy of the gene for human insulin, can make insulin. As these genetically modified (GM) bacterial cells age, they produce human insulin, which can be purified and used to treat diabetes in humans. Microorganisms can also be modified to produce digestive enzymes. In the future, these microorganisms could be colonized in the intestinal tract of persons with digestive enzyme insufficiencies . Products of modern biotechnology include artificial blood vessels from collagen tubes coated with a layer of the anticoagulant heparin
4.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. New genetic therapies are being developed to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, AIDS and cancer..
5.Vaccines:Advancements in biotechnology have made it possible to produce vaccines that cannot transmit a virus or bacterium. This method has helped create more than 20 new vaccines against infectious agents, improved existing vaccines, and increased the amount of vaccine that can be produced.
6.DNA fingerprinting is the process of cross matching two strands of DNA. In criminal investigations, DNA from samples of hair, bodily fluids or skin at a crime scene are compared with those obtained from the suspects. In practice, it has become one of the most powerful and widely known applications of biotechnology today.
7.Disease Identification:/Diagnosis:Another process, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), is also being used to more quickly and accurately identify the presence of infections such as Covid-19, AIDS, Lyme disease and Chlamydia.
7.Paternity determination is possible because a child’s DNA pattern is inherited, half from the mother and half from the father. To establish paternity, DNA fingerprints of the mother, child and the alleged father are compared. The matching sequences of the mother and the child are eliminated from the child’s DNA fingerprint; what remains comes from the biological father. These segments are then compared for a match with the DNA fingerprint of the alleged father.
DNA testing is also used on human fossils to determine how closely related fossil samples are from different geographic locations and geologic areas. The results shed light on the history of human evolution and the manner in which human ancestors settled different parts of the world.
8.Agriculture-Biotechnology improves crop insect resistance, enhances crop herbicide tolerance and facilitates the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices. Biotechnology feeds the world by generating higher crop yields with fewer inputs, lowering volumes of agricultural chemicals required by crops-limiting the run-off of these products into the environment, using biotech crops that need fewer applications of pesticides and that allow farmers to reduce tilling farmland, developing crops with enhanced nutrition profiles that solve vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, producing foods free of allergens and toxins such as mycotoxin, and improving food and crop oil content to help improve cardiovascular health.
1.Among the potential ecological risks identified are increased weediness, due to cross- pollination from genetically modified crops spreads to other plants in nearby fields. This may allow the spread of traits such as herbicide-resistance to non-target plants that could potentially develop into weeds. This ecological risk is assessed when deciding if a plant with a given trait should be released into a particular environment, and if so, under what conditions.
Other potential ecological risks stem from the use of genetically modified corn and cotton with insecticidal genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt genes). This may lead to the development of resistance to Bt in insect populations exposed to the biotech-derived crop. There also may be risks to non-target species, such as birds and butterflies, from the plants with Bt genes
2.The health effects of foods grown from genetically engineered crop depend on the composition of the food itself. Any new product may have either beneficial or occasional harmful effects on human health. For example, a biotech-derived food with a higher content of digestible iron is likely to have a positive effect if consumed by iron-deficient individuals.
Besides the debate over whether cloning genes is sacrilegious, innumerable ethical questions arise over the appropriateness of licensing genetic inventions and other IP issues.
In addition, the construction of genes from scratch (the first artificial gene was actually synthesized in 1970) means we might someday be able to create life, which will most certainly go against the ethical or religious beliefs of a significant number of people.
There are also other ethical concerns including when scientists use humans as clinical trial subjects
4.Bioterrorism. Governments are worried terrorists will use biotechnology to create new Superbugs, infectious viruses, or toxins for which we have no cures.Bioterrorism happens when viruses, bacteria or other germs are released intentionally to inflict harm on or kill people, plants or livestock. The agency says the most likely agent to be used in an attack is anthrax — a serious disease caused by a bacteria found naturally in soil.