What is biotechnology?
The field of Biotechnology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and the roots of its various applications in our day-to-day lives are embedded deeply, so we will explore and determine how far it might go in the future.
Biotechnology deals with the sustainable development of beneficial products utilizing living organisms. It harnesses molecular processes at the cellular level to develop technologies and products that help to improve life. Its applications are focused on human welfare.
With the development in genetic engineering, research in biotechnology and other related areas developed rapidly because of making changes in the genetic material (DNA) of organisms.
Biotechnology covers many disciplines, including genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry etc. Moreover, innovations in production through biotechnology is speedily increasingly elevating with each year within areas of industry ( textile, paper production, food ), medicine (development of new therapies and medicine), agriculture ( genetically modified plants biological treatment, biofuels).
Biotechnology is of vital importance in improving food quality, quantity and processing in eco-friendly due to bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, hence aiding farmers to get good yields of crops.
Biotechnology has played a significant role in improving human health by producing enriched nutrients food products such as Golden Rice, potatoes, maize, groundnuts, soybean, etc.
Biotechnology is used in innovative techniques for diagnosing and treating diseases in the medical field by inventing recombinant vaccines and novel vaccines. The therapeutic proteins fight against infections in developing and developed countries. The diagnostic tools detect conditions in a quick and accurate manner.
What is biotechnology used for?
Biotechnology has revolutionized mankind since its existence. It is serving as a productive field related to essential aspects of life, atmosphere and everything associated with our living in a variety of ways, including :
- In producing more food using available land
- To raise high-yielding, disease-resistant crops
- To replace harmful chemical fertilizers with harmless biofertilizers
- To bring refinement in biocides for agriculture
- To preserve the germplasm of animals, plants and microbes
- To serve in the field of pharmaceutics for treating severe diseases
- To reduce the deforestation for fuelwood by producing biofuels
- To protect food using beneficial microbes
- To extract minerals from ores employing microorganisms
- To minimize hazardous pollutants
An innovative breeding process of micropropagation in biotechnology
helps produce new varieties of plants with highly desirable characteristics, which has proved to be very effective. These crops are genetically modified, leading to potential advantages, including high-quality plants with improved taste yield, reduced dependence on fertilizers and other agrochemicals. Transgenic animals are produced with enhanced production of meat, milk and eggs.
Biotechnology plays a major role in controlling environmental pollution through biodegradation, biotreatment, bioremediation, biomonitoring, waste recycling, and other waste management technologies related to solid-liquid and gaseous wastes.
Biotechnology contributes to conserving resources and increased food supply by contributing to food preservation methods, including optimum pasteurization and freezing, hence conserving and utilizing resources economically.
What are the four main areas of biotechnology?
This field deals with the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, including large scale production of required hormones like (insulin, interferon etc.) and drugs such as vaccines for COVID-19, polio, rabies etc. and growth hormones such as bovine. Genetic engineering has revolutionized the medical world by producing hormones, blood serum proteins, antibiotics, and other medically valuable products.
According to Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Biotechnology is responsible for more than 250 vaccines and medications such as regenerative therapies and artificial organs and antibiotics.
Biotechnologists understand how genes and disease are interlinked and play an essential role in making life easy for people suffering by sorting out how the treatment procedures can be applied.
Biotech offers promising development and treatments for various diseases like dengue fever, Chagas, Malaria, Leishmaniasis etc., among many other infectious diseases.
It deals with the like milk production ( by transgenic animals),
increased meat production with resistance to various diseases. It also deals with fertilizing the egg (in-vitro) and transferring the embryo to the female womb for further development.
Scientists can develop the right strategies to treat a wide range of diseases by understanding disease-causing pathogens at the molecular level, and advancements in technology have made it possible to treat various health complications in one way or the other.
It deals with the commercial production of useful organic substances, such as citric acid, glycerine, acetone, acetic acid etc. and antibiotics like streptomycin, penicillin, mitomycin etc., using microbes, especially bacteria and fungi.
The industrial branch works by improving manufacturing processes, for example, by developing biofuels or technologies to make the industry more sustainable.
In food production, it deals with a wide range of processes in every food industry. For example, it deals with reducing the levels of saturated fats in cooking oil. Biotechnology deals with the preservation of food, hence improving the shelf life of products.
Baking and brewing are examples of biotechnology processes utilizing living organisms in their natural form.
Environmental Biotechnology is a practically useful scientific field with research in the genetics, physiology, and biochemistry of exploitable microorganisms, which is rapidly translated into commercially available technologies to prevent further deterioration of the earth’s environment.
It deals with the detoxification of industrial effluents and waste, controlling insects and plant diseases using biological agents such as bacteria and viruses, sewage water treatment, etc.
Environmental biotechnology deals with the restoration and sustainability of the environment. This field deals with the detection, prevention and remediation of pollutants in various ways.
Waste (solid, liquid or gaseous) can be modified either by purification or recycling into new products, so the end product is less harmful to the environment. In addition, replacing chemical processes with biological technologies can reduce environmental damage, making a significant contribution to the sustainable environment.
It includes the processes that make use of natural resources, by recovering energy,
minimizing waste generation and recycling biomass.
Biotechnological processes in this field protect the environmental integrity with long term ecological security.
Plant biotechnology is a combination of genetic engineering and tissue culture.
Following are some related features described :
- It deals with the development of haploids, clonal multiplication, embryo rescue, transgenic plants ( with resistance to biotic and abiotic factors ), cryopreservation etc.
- It is involved in the development of new crop cultivars.
- It makes interspecific and inter-generic crosses feasible.
- It helps in the development of plants resistant to biotic and abiotic stress.
- It contributes in crop improvement, including tetraploid plants that are developed through protoplast fusion.
- It contributes to the food chain’s flexibility (e.g., making it possible to grow crops in the desert, pest-resistant varieties of plants, drought-resistant plants, etc.)
- It makes it possible to grow crops without relying on climate patterns.
- It contributes in improving crop yield drastically.
- It allows the designing of crops resistant to pests and parasites.
Why can biotechnology be bad / Cons of Biotechnology?
- It can threaten the survival of certain species:
Biotechnology processes rely on the modification of selective crossbreeding and genes, i.e., the natural way of breeding is interfered with. This human-controlled process can develop complications that can ruin the natural balance of species and lead to the extinction of certain species.
- The unknowns :
The modifications at the genetic level can lead to unforeseen consequences; for example, some modified crops will not grow in a particular climate in the long run.
- Affecting soil fertility :
Biotechnology leads to the development of high nutrient crops. Hence this high intake from soil gradually leads to less fertile soil in the long run.
- Risk of cross-pollination:
The risk of crossbreeding of modified plants with the crops having unfavourable conditions will lead to the development of plants with unique undesirable characteristics, so there is a need to ensure safe approaches by carefully monitoring the processes. For example,
in cross-pollination and gene alteration, only favourable varieties should be crossbred.
- Biotechnology can turn human life into a commodity:
Ethical issues have been highlighted many times about patenting gene sequences that can be applied in both humans and crops. For example, to get specified patent procedures, there is a requirement of fee payment to use that treatment method in specific health issues. Hence, the ethical issue of turning human life into a commodity arrives.
- Biological weapons :
Biological weapons lead to mass destruction. In addition, certain disease-causing species can be engineered for the sake of weaponization.
There are chances people with ill intentions can apply it to others. Unexpected accidents can lead to severe consequences during the gene-altering processes, so the threat of weaponizing the technology is real and has evoked fear of threatening human life in different jurisdictions.
What is the salary for biotechnology?
A person working in the field of Biotechnology in Pakistan earns around an average of Rs 100,000 / month. Salaries range from 50,000 PKR (lowest average) to 195,000 PKR (where the maximum actual wage is higher).