Biotechnology is an area of science focused on the use of living systems and organisms in the creation and improvement of techniques and products.Biotechnology encompasses basic biological sciences (such as molecular biology, embryology, genetics, etc.), applied sciences (such as immunology and biochemistry), as well as technological areas such as computer science and robotics.
Biotechnological methods encompass various procedures for modifying living organisms, from the simplest ones such as domestication of animals and plant cultivation, to processes of improvement such as artificial selection and hybridization. In addition, more modern methods involve the use of genetic engineering and cell and tissue culture.The integration between the different areas of biology with the techniques mentioned above gives rise to biotechnology, whose applications occur in several sectors.
Differences between classical biotechnology and modern biotechnology
Classical biotechnology concerns the various means of using live micro-organisms for the production of new products or modification of existing products. It covers classical methods such as the crossing of species to obtain new ones that have the desired characteristics, and of fermentation, used in the production of wines, cheeses and bread.
Modern biotechnology relies heavily on techniques that utilize genetic engineering . In this sense, it is possible to state that the greatest advances in biotechnology have occurred through genetic engineering tools and methods, such as the intentional manipulation of genes, cells and tissues in a controlled way to form genetically improved organisms, DNA recombination, tissue culture , mutagenesis, etc.
Examples of application of biotechnology
Considering that biotechnology comprises a wide range of sciences, its results can be found in numerous sectors of the economy. The applications of this area always seek to improve the quality of life on the planet, either through the creation of new techniques and products or the improvement of existing ones.
Genetically modified organisms
A classic example of the application of biotechnology is the creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also called transgenics . These organisms had their genetic code altered (usually by combining with genes from other organisms), with the aim of eliminating defects and developing new properties.
The main examples of genetically modified organisms are those used:
- in medicine : insulin, stem cells, growth hormone, hormones for treatment of infertility, new treatments for cancer, gene therapy (treatment of diseases by replacing defective genes), vaccines, etc.
- in agriculture : genetically improved foods, more resistant and productive crops, animals and plants modified to produce usable substances in medicines, etc.
- in animals : transgenic mice used in studies and fish with growth four times higher than normal (tilapia and goldfish).
- in the environment : bacteria that fight pollution caused by oil and metals.
Advantages of biotechnology
The advantages brought by biotechnology are numerous and extend across all fields of application, improving the quality of life in the world. Among his most apparent results are:
- Harvests of greater yield and greater resistance;
- Less use of pesticides;
- Transgenic foods last longer, decreasing food waste;
- Reduction in the amount of energy needed to produce food;
- Use of products less harmful to the environment;
- Decrease in hunger in the world;
- More nutritious foods;
- Reduction in the occurrence of contagious diseases;
- More precise tools for detecting diseases, etc.
Disadvantages of biotechnology
The advances made by biotechnology also have negative consequences. Among the main ones, we can highlight:
- Damage to the environment;
- High dependence on technologies from developed countries;
- Increased concentration of income;
- Uncertainty about its long-term effects on the environment and organisms;
- Decreased biodiversity;
- Increase in the occurrence of diseases caused by transgenic products.
In order to classify the different areas of biotechnology, professionals and scholars of the area began to adopt a color system that divides science into branches, according to the field of application:
- Green biotechnology : applied in agriculture with the aim of creating more sustainable agricultural conditions.
- Red biotechnology : it is applied in medicine with the aim of improving medicines and treatments. The most advanced methods cover even the cure of diseases through genetic manipulation.
- White biotechnology : also called industrial biotechnology, is used in the manufacture of products through methods less harmful to the environment.
- Yellow biotechnology : applied in the areas of nutrition and food production, but also refers to the branch of biotechnology applied to insects.
- Blue biotechnology : applied to the exploitation of marine biological resources.
- Purple biotechnology : is related to laws, patents, publications and other documentary issues related to biotechnology.
- Golden biotechnology : refers to the use of bioinformatics and computational techniques in biotechnology.
- Orange biotechnology : also called educational biotechnology, consists of all measures aimed at the dissemination and dissemination of biotechnology.
- Black biotechnology : it is related to the application of biotechnology for warlike purposes, like the production of biological weapons.
In view of the multidisciplinary nature of biotechnology, access to the profession can occur through diverse formations, such as biology, medicine, agronomy, biochemistry, engineering, pharmacy, etc.The specialization requirements for entry into the biotechnology field vary according to the regulations of each profession.