“Our world is built on biology and once we begin to understand it, it then becomes a technology”
- Ryan Bethencourt
Biotechnology is indeed the beautiful manifestation of biology with engineering, technologies, and industries. It will not be wrong to say that biology is the hypothesis and biotechnology has now become the experiment as well as a result of this hypothesis. So, how exactly does the biotechnology function? Biotechnology deals with techniques of using live organisms or enzymes from organisms to produce products and processes useful to humans. By this definition, a lot of activities would come under the purview of biotechnology, such as making curd, bread or wine, and other microbe-mediated processes. However, biotechnology is briefly restricted to such of those processes which use genetically modified organisms to achieve the same on a larger scale. Now, this is where biotechnology becomes an offshoot of biology because it involves the genetic modification of an existing organism and using the genetically modified organism for human welfare.
Is biotechnology all about modifying the genome of organisms? Well, in order to answer this question, we will have to look into the definition of biotechnology provided by the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB), that incorporates both the traditional view and modern view on the biotechnology:
‘The integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services’
Biotechnology and its application gained momentum during the last quarter of the 20th century. Since then, it has been used and applied in food processing, plant breeding, therapeutics and enzymes, biofortification, extraction of metals, cleaning of oil spills, biorefinery and bioenergy, drug discovery and development, vaccines development and the particulars to this list would be added as the understanding of biotechnology would proceed.
Therefore, as you would proceed to read chapter biotechnology and its applications, you would thoroughly understand the underlying principles, procedures, and public response to the same. You would also get an insight into the applications of biotechnology that have successfully been performed.
As fas as the NEET exam is concerned (which is also our primary reason to read this chapter!) the chapter biotechnology and its applications come with an approximate 7% weightage. As questions are based on the procedures and practical implications, it would be futile to mug-up the concepts. So, you will have to proceed with developing a pristine understanding. Also, the chapter of the molecular basis of inheritance would need a brush-up as many related concepts would be used in biotechnology. We shall follow the NCERT textbook for class 12 initially to build the basics and then read from additional books to gather information.
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So, let’s get started with the exploration of an amazing world of biotechnological sorcery!
It is beyond discussion that the biotechnology is an applied field. There are numerous advancements that biotechnology has achieved. However, before going into the understanding of the practical aspects of biotechnology, it is better to understand the principles and procedures of biotechnology. Once this understanding is established, you will be able to well comprehend how biotechnology is applied in real sense.
1. Biotechnology: Principles And Processes
The principles of biotechnology as grouped under two broad categories:
Biotechnology is also referred to as recombinant-DNA technology. This is so because the host organism’s DNA is modified using a bacterial or viral DNA (called vector). You would be surprised to find that the basic methodology of biotechnology, that would be introduced to you in this chapter, can be used in several thousand procedures. These steps of biotechnology can be summarised as:
(i) identification of DNA with desirable genes;
(ii) introduction of the identified DNA into the host;
(iii) maintenance of introduced DNA in the host and transfer of the DNA to its progeny.
Hence, let us look at the content of the chapter biotechnology processes and principles:
This chapter of biotechnology processes and principles deals with the tools and procedures to follow the basic steps of biotechnology. According to the nature of the application, these procedures can change but the basic principle remains the same.
2. Biotechnology and Its Application:
Although the applications of biotechnology deserve lifetime attention, we shall understand the popular and umbrella-applications in this chapter. Umbrella-applications are those under which a variety of applications can develop. The scope of research in biotechnological applications can be summarised into the following three areas:
(i) Providing the best catalyst in the form of the improved organism usually a microbe or pure enzyme.
(ii) Creating optimal conditions through engineering for a catalyst to act, and
(iii) Downstream processing technologies to purify the protein/organic compound.
Let us look into the topics of biotechnology and its application that are basically the efforts to improve the quality of human life, especially in the field of food production and health.
There are numerous and varied ethical issues associated with biotechnology and its applications. For example, Bt cotton comes with a bacterial gene. Since it's a commercial crop, its usage is not subjected to many restrictions but the same is not true in case of Bt brinjal. In India, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) decides for the research and market-launch of any genetically modified product. Recently, DMH-11, a genetically modified variety of mustard that restricted self-fertilization to prevent inbreeding depression, was not authorized to be commercially used by GEAC. Many NGOs and civil societies also have their concerns and reservations regarding the uses of genetically modified organisms.
There cannot be a doubt over these reservations but at the same time, the applications of biotechnology cannot be subjected to dubious restrictions. The scientific community, scholars, students and government bodies will have to play an active role in order to alleviate the popular concern and the people will also have to be inclusive regarding the same. There is a need to come up with a common platform where issues can be discussed because we all agree to the fact that biotechnological advancements are highly needed for the betterment of several aspects of human lives.
A foreign DNA and plasmid cut by the same restriction endonuclease can be joined to form a recombinant plasmid using
Which of the following is a restriction endonuclease?
Which part of the tobacco plant is infected by Meloidogyne incognita?