What is biotechnology?
Contrary to its name, biotechnology is not a single technology. Rather it is a group of technologies that share two (common) characteristics -- working with living cells and their molecules and having a wide range of practice uses that can improve our lives.
Biotechnology can be broadly defined as "using organisms or their products for commercial purposes." As such, (traditional) biotechnology has been practices since he beginning of records history. (It has been used to:) bake bread, brew alcoholic beverages, and breed food crops or domestic animals (2). But recent developments in molecular biology have given biotechnology new meaning, new prominence, and new ...view middle of the document...
These nucleotides pair up into strands that twist together into a spiral structure call a "double helix." This double helix is DNA. Segments of the DNA tell individual cells how to produce specific proteins. These segments are genes. It is the presence or absence of the specific protein that gives an organism a trait or characteristic. More than 10,000 different genes are found in most plant and animal species. This total set of genes for an organism is organized into chromosomes within the cell nucleus. The process by which a multicellular organism develops from a single cell through an embryo stage into an adult is ultimately controlled by the genetic information of the cell, as well as interaction of genes and gene products with environmental factors. (5).
When cells reproduce, the DNA strands of the double helix separate. Because nucleotide A always pairs with T and G always pairs with C, each DNA strand serves as a precise blueprint for a specific protein. Except for mutations or mistakes in the replication process, a single cell is equipped with the information to replicate into millions of identical cells. Because all organisms are made up of the same type of genetic material (nucleotides A, T, G, and C), biotechnologists use enzymes to cut and remove DNA segments from one organism and recombine it with DNA in another organism. This is called recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology, and it is one of the basic tools of modern biotechnology (6). rDNA technology is the laboratory manipulation of DNA in which DNA, or fragments of DNA from different sources, are cut and recombined using enzymes. This recombinant DNA is then inserted into a living organism. rDNA technology is usually used synonymously with genetic engineering. rDNA technology allows researchers to move genetic information between unrelated organisms to produce desired products or characteristics or to eliminate undesirable characteristics.
Genetic engineering is the technique of removing, modifying or adding genes to a DNA molecule in order to change the information it contains. By changing this information, genetic engineering changes the type or amount of proteins an organism is capable of producing. Genetic engineering is used in the production of drugs, human gene therapy, and the development of improved plants (2). For example, an “insect protection” gene (Bt) has been inserted into several crops - corn, cotton, and potatoes - to give farmers new tools for integrated pest management. Bt corn is resistant to European corn borer. This inherent resistance thus reduces a farmers pesticide use for controlling European corn borer, and in turn requires less chemicals and potentially provides higher yielding Agricultural Biotechnology.
Although major genetic improvements have been made in crops, progress in conventional breeding programs has been slow. In fact, most crops grown in the US produce less than their full genetic potential. These shortfalls in yield are due...