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Evolving Biotechnology

Jun 26, 2008
There are plenty of explanations of what biotechnology is, but the simplest one is that it is a field of study where biology is the foundation on which different kinds of technology are developed. Biotechnology is the basis of many different kinds of research in the fields of environment, food science, robotics, agriculture and medicine.

The human involvement in manipulating their environment is now at remarkable levels. From the most basic direct organism manipulations such as fermenting beer and culturing bacteria to advanced nucleotide-based organ regeneration and animal cloning, our knowledge and technology has advanced far beyond what anyone would've expected just a decade ago.

But even before there was a name to call it by, biotechnology was in existence. Even something that people have been doing for centuries, like preservatives to keep food edible during winter, is a form of biotechnology. When around 6000 BC, fruit juice was first fermented to form alcohol, it was another instance of biotechnology. Of course, it has emerged as a science only recently.

About twenty years ago, the role of genetics in artificially creating proteins in a living being was discovered. DNA was discovered and molecular biology became a part of mainstream science. This was what gave rise to the study of biotechnology under that name.

The mid 80s brought a revelation in biotechnology - genetic structures could be modified by careful combinations between animals and plants. This introduction to transgenic organisms also developed an area for further research into disease resistance and productivity rate increases. Modern biotechnology is used in a variety of ways and the medical and biological research fields have managed to get the most benefit out of it. The methods used have gone beyond ordinary genetic transfers, to include actual plant-generated pharmaceuticals and substance production for antibiotics and insulin.

Modern biotechnology is practiced in three different categories - red, white and green. Red Biotechnology is when the genetically altered microorganisms are used to produce medical and pharmaceutical substances, such as proteins, vitamins, antibiotics and vaccines etc. It's also used in genome manipulation.

White Biotechnology is also known as bio-manufacturing and Grey Biotechnology. This is not yet a completely established field and involves manipulating live organisms to create important industrial chemicals. Some of the organisms used in these techniques include bacteria, enzymes, moulds and yeast.

Agricultural Biotechnology, also known as Green Biotechnology, is what's applied into creating better, fresher, more nutritious and longer-lasting agricultural produce. A traditional agricultural biotechnology example is how wheat varieties are cross-bred to produce a disease-resistant crop.
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