Biotechnology is the use of living organisms or other biological systems in the manufacture of drugs or other products or for environmental management, as in waste recycling: includes the use of bioreactors in manufacturing, microorganisms to degrade oil slicks or organic waste, genetically engineered bacteria to produce human hormones, and monoclonal antibodies to identify antigens (www.dictionary.com).
An article by Cole-Turner (2003) states, in its modern form, biotechnology uses the techniques of molecular biology to understand and manipulate the basic building blocks of living things. The earliest biotechnology, however, was the selective breeding of plants and animals to improve their food value. This was followed in time by the use of yeast to make bread, wine, and beer. These early forms of biotechnology began about ten thousand years ago and lie at the basis of human cultural evolution from small bands of hunter-gatherers to large, settled communities, cities, and nations, giving rise, in turn, to writing and other technologies.
The application of biotechnology in the field of agriculture, has been used to create various vaccines, antibiotics, biofuels, as well as many other useful applications for human or animal usage. Crops have been engineered to carry antigenic proteins from transferable pathogens. A vaccine from tobacco plants was developed to treat lymphoma, as a result, the treated patients’ immune system was greatly boosted.
Biotechnology has also been useful in the creation of nutrient supplementation. In countries with high levels of health issues, scientist are creating hereditarily distorted foods that hold nutrients known to help fight disease or starvation. An example of this is Golden Rice, which contain beta-carotene, the forerunner for Vitamin A manufacture in our bodies. People who eat the rice create more Vitamin A, and necessary nutrient lacking in the diets of the poor in Asian countries (Biotechweb).
Current and future applications of biotechnology in agriculture continue to make advancements every day. As the biotechnology industry grows, scientist are finding new ways to improve crop yields. This is being done by modifying the crops to resist disease, cold weather, insects, and pesticides. The use of biotechnology also allows crops to grow in conditions and locations they normally would not be capable of. In real life examples, crops are being cross-bred through trial and error. By doing this, however, the desired results are not always achieved.
Another area biotechnology is used in agriculture, is in industry and commerce. In an article written on Environmentalscience.com states, “plants and organic material do not only supply food for our tables. Paper comes from wood pulp (trees), our clothes are made of wool (from sheep) and cotton (a plant) (2). We utilize enzymes in our detergents, hemp for reusable shopping bags. Few have evolved naturally and most have been bioengineered for centuries for more desirable attributes to provide us with the essential non-food items we use in our daily lives.”
In a final example, biotechnology has been used to create transgenic crops. Transgenic crops by definition are plants that contain a gene or genes which have been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring them through pollination. This technology is being applied at a rapid pace to trees that include eucalyptus, aspen, sweet gum, white spruce, walnut, and apple. As the world population increases, the demand for wood and wood products continue to grow as well. To combat this growing need, transgenic trees are being grown on forest plantations.