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Plants are known to use sunlight as an energy source. But what happens if there is inadequate sunlight? Or adverse weather conditions and environmental changes? It is often found that crops do not give adequate yield because of pests, diseases or their inability to adapt to environmental stress. On such occasions genes can be inserted in crops to give them resistance against pests and diseases and enhance their ability to withstand adverse weather conditions. This is one example of modern biotechnology.

In biotechnology, a number of techniques are involved for manipulation of genes, cells and living tissues in a controlled manner to produce new genetic makeup of an organism. It shares two common characteristics -- working with living cells and their molecules and having a wide range of practice uses that can improve our lives. To know more about it and the examples of this technique, one can refer to the following website -- Bio Basics.

Use of biotechnology began about 9000 years ago and its traditional functions had been fermenting beer, baking bread or culturing cheese.


[edit] Getting Better Crop Yield

With modern biotechnology, crops have less need for chemical pesticides and give more nutritious and tasty yield. Fruits can be made to taste better with genetic modifications

Similarly in rice, genes can be introduced which increase available iron levels three-folds. Consumption of such rice is potential remedy for iron deficiency, a condition that affects more than two billion people and causes anemia in a million.

With biotechnology techniques, it is possible to decrease the time necessary to detect food borne pathogens, toxins, and chemical contaminants, thereby ensuring food safety.

[edit] Industrial Biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology techniques help improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of industrial processes like textile, paper and pulp, and chemical manufacturing. Biocatalysts, such as enzymes, are developed to synthesize chemicals. Using biotechnology, the desired enzyme, which are proteins produced by all organisms, can be manufactured in commercial quantities. The objective is to develop cost-effective and sustainable green industrial processes

With biotech applications, commodity chemicals such as polymer-grade acrylamide and specialty chemicals can be produced. Biotechnology is also used in the textile industry for the finishing of fabrics and garments. Biotech-derived cotton is warmer, stronger and has improved dye uptake and retention.

Biotechnology is also being applied in the areas of pollution control, mining and energy production. Genetically engineered microorganisms and plants are used to clean up toxic wastes from industrial production and oil spills. Biotechnology applications have also been introduced into the forestry and aquaculture industries. With genetic methods, particular populations of endangered species can be identified. With biotechnology, minute traces of animal or plant remains can be used to track and convict poachers. Botanical gardens, zoos, and game farms are able to improve their breeding programs with genetic analysis which helps determine the genetic diversity of various plant and animal populations.

[edit] Environmental Biotechnology

Waste treatment and pollution prevention are two primary areas where environmental biotechnology is used.

Environmental biotechnology offers ways to make industrial processes work more efficiently and create less pollution.

Different types of plastics can be made from plant sugar rather than petrochemicals by using specially tailored yeasts and microorganisms. These products are biodegradable.

In recycling or bleaching paper, bioleaching will progressively displace chemicals. Enzymes are used in many laundry detergents to replace phosphate detergents.

Some heavy-duty stain removing bacteria have even been found in heavily-alkaline lakes where they have survived by learning to break down the toxins in their environment.

[edit] Environmental Benefits from Gene Technology

The use of gene technology for managing the environment is at a very early stage, with many of the potential applications still being researched:

  • Gene technology is gearing up to provide more effective control of some exotic weeds and feral animal pests on land and in water.
  • Efforts are on with gene technology to develop enzyme products for detoxifying pesticide residues. This will particularly benefit the cotton, horticultural and rice industries.
  • To measure the presence of some hazardous chemicals in the environment, bacteria have been genetically modified as 'bioluminescors' that give off light in response to several chemical pollutants.
  • Tests are currently going on for genetic sensors which will help detect various chemical contaminants. These can be used for tracking how pollutants are naturally degrading in ground water.
  • Efforts are on to include 'sterility' genes in plants and animals imported into specific regions so that they can breed only in captivity.
  • The use of pest-resistant crops could mean a reduced use of insecticides, with less impact on other insects and animals, less pollution of air,
  • The use of genetically modified crops that are tolerant to broad-spectrum herbicides may result in more effective weed control, leading to less overall herbicide use and/or less demand for more narrowly targeted and persistent herbicides.
  • Use of some genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops may result in less cultivation for weed control, thereby reducing the degradation of fragile soils.
  • More efficient farming may lead to less pressure on the natural environment, including native bush-land.

[edit] Human Applications

• Many proteins for pharmaceutical and other specialized purposes are being produced using biotechnical methods • A harmless strain of Escherichia coli bacteria, given a copy of the gene for human insulin, can make insulin. • With the ageing of genetically modified bacterial cells, human insulin, which can be purified and used to treat diabetes in humans, can be produced • Microorganisms can also be modified to produce digestive enzymes. In the future, these microorganisms could be colonized in the intestinal tract of persons with digestive enzyme insufficiencies • Products of modern biotechnology include artificial blood vessels from collagen tubes coated with a layer of the anticoagulant heparin. • Gene therapy – altering DNA within cells in an organism to treat or cure a disease – is one of the most promising areas of biotechnology research. • New genetic therapies are being developed to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, AIDS and cancer

  • DNA fingerprinting is the process of cross matching two strands of DNA. In criminal investigations, DNA from samples of hair, bodily fluids or skin at a crime scene is compared with those obtained from the suspects. In practice, it has become one of the most powerful and widely known applications of biotechnology today.
  • Another process, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), is also being used to more quickly and accurately identify the presence of infections such as AIDS, Lyme disease and Chlamydia.
  • Paternity determination is possible because a child’s DNA pattern is inherited, half from the mother and half from the father. To establish paternity, DNA fingerprints of the mother, child and the alleged father are compared. The matching sequences of the mother and the child are eliminated from the child’s DNA fingerprint; what remains comes from the biological father. These segments are then compared for a match with the DNA fingerprint of the alleged father.
  • DNA testing is also used on human fossils to determine how closely related fossil samples are from different geographic locations and geologic areas. The results shed light on the history of human evolution and the manner in which human ancestors settled different parts of the world.

[edit] References

  • What is Biotechnology?
  • is Biotechnology?

[edit] See Also


There are a whole lot of ethical issues that Biotechnology throws up that this article has not addressed. ..... Read more inside