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What is Biotechnology

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines, “Biotechnology is any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or their derivatives, to produce or modify products or processes for a specific use.” The OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) defines biotechnology as “…the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials from biological agents”. Thus, ‘Biotechnology’ basically means the use of biology as the basis for a technology applied to research and product development in fields such as agriculture, food science and medicine.

The Academic Standards for Science and Technology define Biotechnology as the ways in which people apply biological concepts to produce products and provide services. This is very true if we consider a branch of biotechnology in which the directed manipulation of organisms is used to produce biological products such as beer, dairy products, food, etc.

Biotechnology was already practiced long before the term itself was coined, albeit at a very basic level. For example, man had already learned the method of fermenting fruit juices to make alcoholic beverages in the period around 6000 BC. However, back then it was considered more of an art. Biotechnology became a real science only about two decades ago, when genes were found to contain information that would allow the synthesis of specific proteins. This happened in the 1970s, when new developments in molecular biology allowed scientists to easily transfer DNA – the chemical building blocks that determine the characteristics of living organisms – between more distantly related organisms.

Then, in the mid-80s and early 90s, it was confirmed that transformation or modification of the genetic structure of plants and animals was very possible. The introduction of “Transgenic” animals and plants also led to greater disease resistance and increased productivity rates, etc. Modern biotechnology is also now often associated with the use of genetically modified microorganisms such as E. coli or yeast to produce substances such as insulin or antibiotics. New innovative application of biotechnology, such as herbal medicinal products, has also been developed now.

Biotechnology Subfields:

Red Biotechnology is the use of genetically modified microorganisms to produce substances such as insulin, antibiotics, vitamins, vaccines and proteins for medical use, and is therefore related to medical procedures. Genome manipulation is also an example of Red Biotechnology.

Bioengineering or white biotechnology is an emerging field in modern biotechnology that involves designing organisms such as mold, yeast or bacteria and enzymes to produce certain useful chemicals and is related to the industrial sector. It is also known as Gray Biotechnology.

Green Biotechnology or agricultural Biotechnology, as the name suggests, is the field of biotechnology that includes applications in agriculture. This basically involves the genetic manipulation of plants and animals in order to create more productive, environmentally friendly, disease resistant species. An example of traditional agricultural biotechnology is the development of disease-resistant wheat varieties by crossing different types of wheat until the desired disease-resistant variety is achieved.

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