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What is Biotechnology? – Biotechnology Question Bank

What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology  is  a  technology  that  is  based  on  biology,  and  uses  living  organisms  to  make  innovative products  and  techniques  that  will  improve  our  lives.  The  industry  of  Biotechnology  is  diverse,  and  within it,  researchers  are  finding  new  tools  that  use  plants,  animals  and  microorganisms  to  create  products  that we can use or to be part of industrial processes like agriculture or the development of new drugs.  Many  of  these  tools  involve  Genetic  Engineering  (GE).  GE  is  a  process  where  scientists  and  researchers deliberately  modify  the  genetic  makeup  of  an  organism.  
This  is  accomplished  by  a  collection  of techniques  known  as  recombinant  DNA  technology.  DNA  is  found  within  the  nucleus  of  most  cells  and contains  the  instructions  for  the  cell  and  determines  what  the  organism  looks  like  and  how  it  functions.  A segment  of  DNA  that  codes  for  a  specific  trait  is  called  a  gene.  Recombinant  DNA  technology  allows scientists  to  bring  together  genetic  material  from  two  different  sources  creating  new  sequences.  These changes allow scientists to create new products, drugs or processes that do not occur naturally in nature. 


In its broadest sense, biotechnology  refers  to the use of  living  systems to develop products.  New  scientific  discoveries are allowing  us to better  understand fundamental life processes at the cellular  and molecular  level.  Now  we  can improve selected attributes of  microbes, plants, or  animals  for  human use by  making  precise genetic changes that were not possible with traditional methods.  All  living  organisms contain genes that carry  the hereditary  traits between generations.  To  understand biotechnology,  it  helps to compare genes with video tape.  
Both DNA and video tape are long, linear  strings of  information.  This  information is  encoded in  a particular  way   — the genes encoded with DNA  and the tape encoded with magnetic particles.  Both the tape and the genes can be copied (cloned), or  edited (recombined).  Tapes tend to be relatively  stable, while  DNA  is  quite dynamic.  In nature, genes are continuously modified, and DNA is commonly transferred within and between species. 
 
It helps to understand that modern biotechnology  allows  a single  gene (from a strand of thousands  of  genes)  to be changed, while  traditional  breeding  involved random mixtures of  many  genes.  Also, some end products of  biotechnology  (such as corn  syrup or soybean oil)  do not contain any  genes; they  are merely  products of  gene action. 
The fact is, when we  eat, all  food (whether  obtained from modern biotechnology  or traditional  methods)  is  broken down into simple  compounds (such as amino acids or fats) that are readily digested by our bodies. The following are some of the main applications of modern biotechnology:


Microbes:   Biotechnology  allows  food scientists to improve the functionality  of  key  food ingredients, such as enzymes. For  over  a decade, we  have consumed an improved cheese enzyme developed through biotechnology.   Other  uses include improved types of  yeast for  bread, better  bacteria for  yogurt, and new  therapies to fight food-borne illness.  Genetically  modified microbes are routinely  used in  industry  (including detergents and pollution clean-up).


Plants:   Biotechnology  has already  been used to enhance to ability  of  plants to fight disease and pests.  Many  new  crops are under development that will have  enhanced nutritional content (such as rice enhanced with Vitamin A that will prevent childhood blindness and/or with iron to reduce the occurrence of  anemia).  It will also be possible to remove  undesirable substances (such as allergens or  saturated fats)  from food.   Such plant transformation is  a refinement of  traditional  breeding  – with modern biotechnology  scientists can add or  remove  small  pieces of  genetic  information in  a very precise manner, with a precise end result in mind.



Animals:   Biotechnology  makes it possible to enhance the ability  of  livestock and pets to  overcome  disease  and  maintain  health.  This  has already  occurred through the use of improved animal  medicines and other  methods of  disease treatment (many  of  which reduce the need for  antibiotics, hormones, or  other  production tools.)   It is  now  possible to improve animal  feed to ensure better  nutrition and reduce the amount of  animal waste.  Biotechnology  has also been used for  many  years to improve animal  breeding, reproduction, and growth.


Humans:   Through advances in  biology,  scientists can better  determine what genetic factors contribute  to  either  wellness or  disease.   Using this information,  it will be possible to intervene earlier  in  a disease through new  medicines, lifestyle  changes, better nutrition, and other approaches.  Diagnostic tests will make it possible to better anticipate the development of  a disease before it  either  begins or  becomes advanced.  This will make it easier to practice prevention.


Why does  Biotechnology  Matter?  
We  may  not  realize  it,  but  biotechnology  is  a  huge  part  of  our  everyday  life.  From  the  clothes  that  we wear  and  how  we  clean  them,  the  food  that  we  eat  and  where  it  comes  from,  the  medicine  and  the  fuel that  we  use,  biotechnology  is  there.  Continued  research  and  development  in  biotechnology  will  ensure that  we  are  better  positioned  to  respond  to  upcoming  challenges  in  society.  Previous  and  current research  in  biotechnology  has  played  a  role  in  creating  the  world  that  we  live  in  today.  Biotechnology  is important  now  and  for  the  future  and  Canada  will  continue  to  be  a  leader  in  this.  Here  are  just  a  few  of our successes. 


  Frederick  Banting and Charles  Best discovered insulin  as  a  treatment for diabetes

  Canola  was  developed  by Canadian plant breeders

   Dr. Paul Hebert from the University  of Guelph discovered a  gene  that would give scientists  an  easy to use  label  to  distinguish  an  animal  from  a  closely  related  species  through  a  process  called  DNA barcoding.

   James  E.  Till  and  Ernest  A.  McCulloch  from  the  University  of  Toronto  discovered  the  hematopoietic stem cell. This  was  the  basis  for  bone marrow transplantation.  

 Dr.  David  Boocock  at  the  University  of  Toronto  developed  a  new  process  of  producing  biodiesel  from vegetable oil, agricultural seed  oils,  animal fats, grease and  recycled cooking oils.  

  The  Michael  Smith  Genome  Sciences  Centre  in  British  Columbia  sequenced  the  genome  of  the coronavirus, a key step in understanding the SARS virus.

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Mallikarjuna

Mallikarjuna

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