In a nutshell, biotechnology is the application of science and technology to modify living organisms in a way that benefits society. The application of these techniques can be traced back to the domestication of animals, where useful traits or traits deemed desirable were passed down over generations, resulting in organisms which have high commercial value or are introduced to address a specific issue. Another early application of biotechnology was brewing, which can be traced back to 6000 BC.
Today, biotechnology scope has increased tenfold due to advances in technology as well as commercialisation. In this article, we shall explore a few applications of biotechnology in detail.
Applications of Biotechnology
One of the best-known applications of biotechnology is the implementation of microorganisms to produce beer. Milk products, such as yoghurt and cheese, are also the byproducts of fermentation. In the mining industry, a process called bioleaching is used where bacteria naturally present in the soil can help extract metals from their ores. This is much safer and environmentally cleaner than using toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, for the same purpose.
Another novel application of biotechnology is the use of microorganisms or plants to remove environmental pollutants from water, soil or air. This process is called bioremediation and is a much more feasible alternative than using conventional methods, which are usually more complicated and expensive.
Biotechnology has many applications in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals, especially in cancer research. Other applications involve CRISPR, a tool to edit genomes and tissue nanotransfection. Recombinant DNA technology is also another byproduct of biotechnology, where DNA from two different species is combined and inserted into a host organism.
In the agricultural industry, GM crops, or genetically modified crops, are used to ensure food security and nutrition. This process works by introducing new traits which do not naturally occur in that species – for example, crops can be made resistant to certain pests or diseases. Crops could also be resistant to stressful environmental conditions or poor soil profiles.
From a wider perspective, GM crops can also prove to be environmentally friendly. For example, GM crops which are resistant to pests have proven to have lower pesticide usage compared to their non-GM counterparts. This reduces the environmental impact of the pesticide as a whole effectively.
Interestingly, the first genetically modified pet is a zebrafish that is able to express sea coral and jellyfish proteins. This resulted in the fish glowing bright red, orange or fluorescent colours when viewed in ultraviolet light. This organism was patented and sold as the GloFish in the United States.
As with most scientific discoveries and innovations, biotechnology also has applications in warfare, where it is used to produce biological weapons which are intended to kill or incapacitate victims. These can involve toxins, infectious organisms or agents, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi.
In conclusion, biotechnology is one of the most useful disciplines in science. Explore other interesting topics, from examples of pulses and plant classification to the human body and anatomy, only on BYJU’S.