The UN Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as the application of technology in biological systems, living systems or their derivatives to make or modify products for specific use. Because of the uses, biotechnology is often misrepresented as bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biomanufacturing or molecular engineering. Biotechnology integrates the use of biochemistry, molecular biology and microbiology to achieve modulated resources of biological agents with the help of technology. The applications of biotechnology are effective in food, medicine, agriculture and even environment protection. Biotechnology is a branch of science with immense potential for our present and future uses. The significance of biotechnology is presented below:
- Agriculture: Obtaining the desirable features in a plant through genetic engineering gives rise to transgenic plants. These plants carry the required nutrition with less or zero side effects to help create a healthy population. The uses of biofertilizers like rhizobium and blue-green algae have proven to be useful and non-polluting to the environment, unlike chemical fertilizers. Molecular breeding has improved crop production. Plant cells, tissue and organ cultures are used for clone multiplication and increase of disease-free fruits and vegetables.
- Medicine: Biotechnology is applied in the discovery and uses of pharmaceutical drugs and genetic testing. Synthesis of important drugs like interferon and insulin with the help of bacteria for the treatment of various diseases. Production of monoclonal antibodies, RNA, and DNA help in investigation and diagnosis of illnesses. The production of vaccines for hepatitis B by genetically engineered microbes is possible due to biotechnology. Constant efforts are being made to treat forms of cancer and viral infections.
- Personal care: Products for personal care like lotions, moisturizers, shampoos, and makeup contains biochemicals. These biochemicals contain materials made from bio-based feedstocks. Products requiring absorbency, like nappies, contain cellulose fibers extracted from raw materials and can also be used in composites as a substitute for glass.
- Environment: Biotechnology is being used as a tool to fight environmental issues like pollution, exhaustion of natural sources of energy and switching from non-renewable energy sources. Now we utilize bacteria for the treatment of sewage and industry effluents. Biogas production involves biotechnology. Insects and pests are now dealt with biopesticides instead of chemical pesticides to wipe out the toll on the environment.
- Industrial: Biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are being mixed with petrol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biorefineries are being constructed to reduce carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels in automobiles. Microbes are employed for the recovery of valuable metals from low-grade ores and dilute solutions because the conventional methods used for the process are ineffective. Biotechnology is also used for alcohol production.
- Daily uses: Production of washing detergents in factories for various uses requires biotechnology. Pro-biotic yogurts and non-soya vegetable burgers contain microbes. Developments are being made to extract sugar from the waste-derived feedstock. Bioplastics, used for packaging and manufacture of products like phone cases and water bottles, are made from biopolymers.
- Career: Considering the above points, there is no doubt that biotechnology has a host of applications. Therefore the study of biotechnology must be motivated and people should be aware of its importance. Field technicians, DNA analyst, clinical researcher, bioinformatics specialist, etc. are the careers offered in biotechnology.