What is Biotechnology?
Simply put, biotechnology is the manipulation of living things to create a product that is useful for humans. Biotechnology has its roots in traditional practices that have been used since the ancient times. For example, fermentation has been used to preserve food for over 6000 years. Scientists later discovered that microorganisms are responsible for fermentation. Fermented products like yogurt, sauerkraut and wine continue to be consumed on a regular basis. Furthermore, selective breeding techniques have been used to promote desirable qualities in livestock and food crops like corn. Early farmers may have crossed a corn plant with larger kernels with another plant that produced more flavorful corn. Plants in the next generation would produce corn with large, delicious kernels.
Today's biotechnology encompasses a variety of techniques that are used extensively in both academic and industrial contexts. For example, genetic engineering and recombinant DNA techniques can be used to manufacture products as diverse as biofuels, biopharmaceuticals and fine chemicals. Scientists program cells to produce large amounts of important proteins or other metabolites, essentially creating living factories. The demand for these products has encouraged development of novel technologies for genetic engineering, microbial growth, large-scale production of biomolecules and their subsequent purification.