Definition of Biotechnology
Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use” (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. 2). Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biomanufacturing, etc.
For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine. The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st century, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development ofpharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.
The wide concept of “biotech” or “biotechnology” encompasses a wide range of procedures for modifying living organisms according to human purposes, going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and “improvements” to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. Modern usage also includes genetic engineering as well as cell and tissue culture technologies. The American Chemical Society defines biotechnology as the application of biological organisms, systems, or processes by various industries to learning about the science of life and the improvement of the value of materials and organisms such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and livestock. As per European Federation of Biotechnology, Biotechnology is the integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services. Biotechnology also writes on the pure biological sciences (animal cell culture,biochemistry, cell biology, embryology, genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology). In many instances, it is also dependent on knowledge and methods from outside the sphere of biology including:
- bioinformatics, a new brand of computer science
- bioprocess engineering
- chemical engineering
Conversely, modern biological sciences (including even concepts such as molecular ecology) are intimately entwined and heavily dependent on the methods developed through biotechnology and what is commonly thought of as the life sciencesindustry. Biotechnology is the research and development in the laboratory using bioinformatics for exploration, extraction, exploitation and production from any living organisms and any source of biomass by means of biochemical engineeringwhere high value-added products could be planned (reproduced by biosynthesis, for example), forecasted, formulated, developed, manufactured and marketed for the purpose of sustainable operations (for the return from bottomless initial investment on R & D) and gaining durable patents rights (for exclusives rights for sales, and prior to this to receive national and international approval from the results on animal experiment and human experiment, especially on the pharmaceuticalbranch of biotechnology to prevent any undetected side-effects or safety concerns by using the products).
By contrast, bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field that more heavily emphasizes higher systems approaches (not necessarily the altering or using of biological materials directly) for interfacing with and utilizing living things. Bioengineering is the application of the principles of engineering and natural sciences to tissues, cells and molecules. This can be considered as the use of knowledge from working with and manipulating biology to achieve a result that can improve functions in plants and animals. Relatedly, biomedical engineering is an overlapping field that often draws upon and applies biotechnology (by various definitions), especially in certain sub-fields of biomedical and/or chemical engineering such astissue engineering, biopharmaceutical engineering, and genetic engineering.
Biotechnology has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastics, vegetable oil, biofuels), and environmental uses.
For example, one application of biotechnology is the directed use of organisms for the manufacture of organic products (examples include beer and milk products). Another example is using naturally presentbacteria by the mining industry in bioleaching. Biotechnology is also used to recycle, treat waste, clean up sites contaminated by industrial activities (bioremediation), and also to produce biological weapons.
A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology; for example:
- Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization as well as analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, “conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale.” Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
- Blue biotechnology is a term that has been used to describe the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.
- Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation. Another example is the designing oftransgenic plants to grow under specific environments in the presence (or absence) of chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thereby ending the need of external application of pesticides. An example of this would be Bt corn. Whether or not green biotechnology products such as this are ultimately more environmentally friendly is a topic of considerable debate.
- Red biotechnology is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
- White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the using of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals. White biotechnology tends to consume less in resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods.
The investment and economic output of all of these types of applied biotechnologies is termed as “bioeconomy”.