Biotechnology is the controlled and deliberate application of simple biological agents-living or dead cells or cell components-in technically useful operations either of productive manufacture or as service operation.
Simply it is the use or manipulation of biological agents for manufacturing some products or services.

Take the case of Humulin, insulin developed by rDNA technology or biotechnology. It is a product.

If we could genetically manipulate a bacteria or fungus to degrade the environmental menace like plastic, then it is a service to protect environment.

Biotechnology is largely a commercial technology.

Old Biotechnology vs New Biotechnology
Let us take some examples to explain the concept.

Case I: Examples of old biotechnology 
  • Conversion of milk to curd
  • Use of many biological organisms like yeast in wining and brewing industries
  • Making of cheese, bread and vinegar.
Milk products CheeseIn all these, biological agents are involved in the making of that product. We have been practicing these technologies from the time immemorial. These constitute old biotechnology.

The above processes are based on the capability of microorganisms or biological agents. At that time, we actually don’t know the mechanism involved or the microbes participated in this process. We just use the innate capability of organisms or microbes for making a product.

Old biotechnology refers to the processes that are based on the inherent capability of microorganisms or biological agents for carrying out a reaction ultimately leading to product.

Case Ii: Examples of New (Modern) biotechnology
  • Bt cotton, Bt brinjal : resistant against many insects. Bt gene fro m  from bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis has been introduced into the plant.
  • Flavr savr tomato (the first commercialised GM crop, tomato with enhanced shelf-life), Golden rice  (Rice rich with Vitamin A) developed by rDNA technology.
  • Humulin (human insulin produced in bacterium, E.coli by recombinant DNA technology)
  • Many other therapeutic proteins produced in bacterium.
In all these examples the common factor is “we have manipulated the innate capability or genome of the organisms involved.

Modern biotechnology refers to the manipulation of genome or innate capabilities of organisms for making it more desirable or to synthesis a valuable product.

In Bt cotton, we are making the plant more diseases resistant (making it more desirable) by introducing bt gene into the crop itself (Bt gene is a bacterial gene that codes for an insecticidal protein).

In the making of Humulin, we have introduced human insulin gene into bacterium and bacterium is producing insulin, a highly useful therapeutic hormone.

Visit our TpT Store for worksheets on rDNA technology

There is nothing wrong in using biological agents for our benefit as in old biotechnology. All the controversies associated with modern biotechnology is due to the fact we are manipulating the genome or DNA of an organism.

This question stands out………
Do we have the knowledge at DNA level to predict the short term and long term consequences connected with this DNA manipulation?.... Majority believe, we don’t have……..
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