What is Biotechnology?

And what can it do for us?

First of all I feel like I should clarify that, when we talk about biotechnology, we are specifically speaking about a explicit field on its own. The first time I heard the word “biotechnology” I thought it was a wider generic therm, i.e. the technology inspired by biology, or just the meeting point between engineering and biology. And while it seems the use of the word is still somewhat debated by agencies and organizations, the most frequents implications of this therm are: design and use of biological entities for obtaining a product or result.

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Bioremediation of contaminated soils with engineered microorganism or plants. One of the green applications of biotechnology

 

This definition, while being more specific, leaves a lot of space for very different development pipelines, technologies, and science fields that meet in the middle of the thing. It’s a multi-field area of science where you find biology, engineering, chemistry, medicine, etc, working together and investigating and usually modifying the biological systems in our profit.

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Yeast species Saccharomices cerevisiae is extensively used for fermenting foods, and also in pharmaceutical isulin production

Real 21st century technology, on the vanguard of science! Producing insulin with yeast, and modifying crops’ DNA so you increase their endurance to some plagues and their productivity, and and… and creating vaccines so we never get really sick. Well, yes it is. But, it is also brewing beer or fermenting bread with selected yeasts, and restricting the reproduction of your farm animals, letting only the best and biggest males breed. Then, biotechnology is, I would say, as old as the first sedentary human communities that pioneered the agricultural expedition in human culture, and make the first selection of crops and better plants among each crop.

I’m not trying to baffle you about this branch of science, not at all. What biotechnology does nowadays is, for me, AMAZING. Nonetheless, I’m preparing right now several entries about these topic. What I try is giving some perspective, just in case you may have some fears and doubts about this “new” technology. Much has being said about the transgenic crops, cloning animals, or vaccines. I have my ethics, and my “red lines”. But wait until you have read some examples of what biotechnology can do, and then take conclusions. Not the other way around. We all know where the fear and rage leads, right Yoda?

 

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Transgenic crops is a very controversial topic, yet a very promising technology if used suitably

So, biotechnology can really help mankind, but it could be a double-edged sword too in some cases. So we must be aware of what biotechnology can achieve, and what we want of it. This alone it’s a good enough reason for being updated, and a very stimulating topic for a good conversation with a friend or colleague by the way. Thus, I encourage you to follow this biotechnology series. And please, tell what you think about biotech. Have you heard about Monsanto, probably one of the most known and controversial companies of the agricultural sector? What do you think? Is it necessary more regulation about what biotechnology can/should do? Or the other way around? As always, stay tuned folks!

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2 thoughts on “What is Biotechnology?

  1. Humankind has been modifying crops and catle trough selection since the very beginning of agriculture. The risk is not modifying a plant so it becomes resistant to plagues, but making it resistant to a toxic weeds-killer… And then poisoning us and the environment with that toxic…
    Anyway, I would love to read more about the uses of yeast!

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    1. You are right. The risk of pesticides and fungicides toxicity is real and exist. There are alternatives in development, like chitin and other elicitors, as we have seen very briefly in the chitin apps post. But making the plant 100% resistant to some plagues can lead to that “plagues” extinction. And the plague would be a small innocent beetle with a sad face 😦 I find this even more disturbing as a long term and not easy solution issue. Transgenic crops are a very hot topic, and we need regulation yet to come. And yes, be sure there’ll be more content about yeast in the near future. Stay tuned and thank you for your comment!

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