As the world attempts to move away from fossil fuels and plastics, biotechnology is becoming a driving force. It allows us to work in with nature, producing a range of goods for medical and commercial properties. Biotechnology is not of the future but is already engrained in our lives and systems.
There are arguments both for and against biotechnology in various fields. Below, we ask the question ‘What is biotechnology used for?' and discuss its applications.
There have been numerous advances in biotechnology in the world of medicine. Many of them come to fruition as medical products, such as drugs and pharmaceuticals. Biotechnology has also helped develop kits for various diagnoses, from DNA testing kits to disease control.
Pharmaceuticals derived in this way can come from any number of sources. Insect and plant cells, in addition to animals and bacterial, are the main sources. One example of these is the use of humulin, a biotech engineered form of insulin to treat patients with diabetes.
Antibiotics, both for humans and animals, use plants and biotechnology. Edible vaccines are also beginning to make a breakthrough. This is when altered plants are induced to produce proteins that will prevent various diseases such as cholera.
Besides pharmaceutical applications, many breakthroughs have come in organ tissue and cell therapies. The research and application of stem cell research as pioneered by Kenneth Chien would fall under this category.
One of the oldest forms of biotechnology is the fermentation of yeast into alcohol. Yeast is a microorganism that metabolizes sugars to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the process begins (usually using starch sugars from barley when making beer) they begin the brewing process.
A similar technique has been used for thousands of years to create bread. Yeast reacts and causes a chemical reaction, allowing the loaf to rise in the oven.
What Is Biotechnology Used for in the Fuel Industry?
The production of biofuel is similar to the production of alcohol. Sugars from plants convert to ethanol through fermentation. Fuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are often combined with petroleum-based fuels to help them reach quotas on carbon emissions.
Many crops make biofuels, such as rapeseed, corn, wheat, and even sugar beets. 10% of petrol and diesel is allowed to be cut with biofuels to reduce their carbon footprint. Work is also underway to allow the incorporation of biofuels into aviation fuels.
Bioplastics are emerging as a viable alternative to nondegradable plastics which are clogging up our oceans. A bioplastic is any material made from biological material other than petroleum. It is made from the extraction of sugar, much like the fermentation processes mentioned above.
Bioplastics are often used in food packaging or cosmetics and healthcare products. Research is now being undertaken to make harder, longer-lasting, and durable bioplastics for white good products like vacuum cleaners.
Bioplastics will degrade over time, returning to the earth as nutrients. There are many voices in opposition to the use of bioplastics, citing the need for biofuel farmland as a bigger threat to the environment. The bottom line is that oil is not infinite and bioplastics will allow us to carry on using plastics long after the oil has dried up.
Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, are not used in the quantities they once were. Yet, they are still blended with traditional materials such as cotton. Bio fabrics are now beginning to replace these, as whole fabrics or bio threads.
A lot of chemicals that also use biotechnology products are also used in the process. Dyes and tanning agents can now also be biologically engineered.
All this biological product has to be produced somewhere, and that is down to agriculture. However, biotechnology has been a benefit to the field of agriculture in many ways itself. It is commonly known as green biotechnology.
Genetically modified organisms are plants that have had their genetic structure modified. It is usually to induce a certain desired effect in the plant. For example, increased resilience to pests, bacteria, and fungi have been introduced to many plants.
While this does increase the yield of the crop, some people are adverse to the use of GMOs. This type of farming can damage delicate ecosystems and must be used very carefully.
Farming & Fisheries
Transgenic animals are creatures that have had their DNA manipulated. This is to understand the processes in which genes regulate. It can help in the study of how genes can cause syndromes and disorders.
The process begins with the insertion of a foreign genome into the fertilized egg. This egg is then inserted into a mother, causing her to give birth to a genetically modified organism.
Fisheries are benefitting from advances in biotechnology. This is due to the discovery of how to synthesize a hormone named gonadotropin. This hormone encourages fish to breed, increasing fish reproduction rates in farms.
Switching to Bio-Tech Products
Whether the responsibility to switch to biological products lies with the company or consumer remains to be seen. As a purchaser, you can reduce your carbon footprint by seeking out bioproducts as opposed to traditional petroleum-based ones. ‘What is biotechnology used for?' is a question which you can now make an informed choice upon.
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