What is Biotechnology?
What is Biotechnology?Biotechnology is a set of techniques by which human beings modify living things or use them as tools. In its modern form, biotechnology uses the techniques of molecular biology to understand and manipulate the basic building blocks of living things. The earliest biotechnology, however, was the selective breeding of plants and animals to improve their food value. This was followed in time by the use of yeast to make bread, wine, and beer.
These early forms of biotechnology began about ten thousand years ago and lie at the basis of human cultural evolution from small bands of hunter-gatherers to large, settled communities, cities, and nations, giving rise, in turn, to writing and other technologies. It is doubtful that, at the outset, the first bio technologists understood the effects of their actions, and so the reason for their persistence in pursuing, for example, selective breeding over the hundreds of generations necessary to show much advantage in food value, remains something of a mystery.
At its simplest, biotechnology is technology based on biology – biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. We have used the biological processes of microorganisms for more than 6,000 years to make useful food products, such as bread and cheese, and to preserve dairy products.
Modern biotechnology provides breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, use less and cleaner energy, and have safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.
HEAL THE WORLD
Biotech is helping to heal the world by harnessing nature’s own toolbox and using our own genetic makeup to heal and guide lines of research by:
Reducing rates of infectious disease;
Saving millions of children’s lives;
Changing the odds of serious, life-threatening conditions affecting millions around the world;
Tailoring treatments to individuals to minimize health risks and side effects;
Creating more precise tools for disease detection; and
Combating serious illnesses and everyday threats confronting the developing world.
FUEL THE WORLD
Biotech uses biological processes such as fermentation and harnesses biocatalysts such as enzymes, yeast, and other microbes to become microscopic manufacturing plants. Biotech is helping to fuel the world by:
Streamlining the steps in chemical manufacturing processes by 80% or more;
Lowering the temperature for cleaning clothes and potentially saving $4.1 billion annually;
Improving manufacturing process efficiency to save 50% or more on operating costs;
Reducing use of and reliance on petrochemicals;
Using biofuel to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 52% or more;
Decreasing water usage and waste generation; and
Tapping into the full potential of traditional biomass waste products.
FEED THE WORLD
Biotech improves crop insect resistance, enhances crop herbicide tolerance and facilitates the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices. Biotech is helping to feed 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.
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