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What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is an applied science, aimed at harnessing the natural biological capabilities of microbial, plant and animal cells for the benefit of people. Biotechnology couples scientific and engineering principles with commercial considerations to develop and improve products and processes made from living systems.

Biotechnology is part of our daily lives. It is used in making foods we eat, the medicines we take, and the plants we grow. It is used in caring for the environment. It solves problems in places as diverse as high-technology pharmaceutical facilities and the laundry room at home.

Since the discovery of the structure of DNA, huge leaps have been made in understanding the mechanisms of cell function, metabolism, replication and product formation. Scientific advances in genetic engineering and molecular biology continue at a rapid pace. These advances develop opportunities for creating new industrial production systems based on living cells and cell components, and new medical treatments using novel biomolecules.

Biotechnology is used in a wide range of activities of social and economic importance. Examples are listed below.


plant breeding to improve resistance to pests, diseases, drought and salt conditions

mass propagation of plant clones

bioinsecticide development

modification of plants to improve nutritional and processing characteristic


Chemical Industry

production of bulk chemicals and solvents
such as ethanol, citric acid, acetone and

synthesis of fine specialty chemicals such as
enzymes, amino acids, alkaloids and


biological recovery of heavy metals from mine tailings and other industrial sources

bioremediation of soil and water polluted with toxic chemicals

sewage and other organic waste treatment

Food Industry

production of bakers' yeast, cheese, yoghurt and
fermented foods such as vinegar and soy sauce

brewing and wine making

production of flavours and colouring agents


development of novel therapeutic molecules for medical treatments

drug delivery systems
tissue engineering of replacement organs
gene therapy

Veterinary Practice

vaccine production


fertility control

livestock breeding