Biotechnology is any technology created for the health and benefit of human life and the whole planet. To be clearer, biotechnology is merging engineering and scientific principles with biology to create valuable offerings. For instance, beer, bread and wine fermentation is based on organisms’ biological activities. Preparing yogurt through lactic acid-making bacteria, producing acetone from paint solvents and starch, production of antibiotics, etc. are the various ways through which biotechnology comes into play.

Scope

Image credit: Flickr
Image credit: Flickr

Biotechnology is a science that isn’t just restricted to genetic engineering and DNA or scientists working their way through genomes and viruses in sophisticated laboratories. The field covers a range of industries such as medicine, agriculture, animal husbandry, manufacturing, energy, etc. The focus is extremely broad, which includes combating rare diseases, decreasing environmental footprint, using cleaner and less energy, feeding the hungry, and so on.

History

Biotechnology may sound like modern science, but in reality, it’s several thousand years old. In fact, biotechnology is as old as human life. There is evidence stating ancient Egyptians, Romans and Babylonians having used selective livestock breeding techniques. However, the science officially got its name in 1919 courtesy a Hungarian agricultural engineer called Karl Ereky, when he foresaw biology can be used to make useful products from raw materials. The term “biotechnology” was coined merging the terms “biology” and “technology”.

Classifications

Biotechnology can be subdivided into four major disciplines: red, green, white and blue.

  • Red biotechnology entails medical procedures like employing organisms to make new drugs, or regenerating damaged human tissues using stem cells.
  • Also called gray biotechnology, white biotechnology focuses on industrial applications like new chemical production or new fuel development for vehicles.
  • Green biotechnology, as the name implies, involves agriculture-related processes such as pest-resistant grain development.
  • Blue biotechnology isn’t widespread. It covers processes in aquatic and marine environments, such as controlling or preventing the build-up of harmful water-borne organisms.