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Biotechnology is technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science, and medicine.

Of the many different definitions available the one formulated by the UN "Convention on Biological Diversity[?]" is the most all encompassing:

  • "Biotechnology is any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use."

One section of biotechnology is the directed use of organisms[?] by humans for production (beer, milk-products, skin). Naturally present bacteria are also involved in the mining industry in bioleaching. Other uses of biotechnology involve recycling, treatment of waste, or production of biowar agents.

There are also applications of biotechnology that do not use living organisms[?]. An example are DNA chips[?] used in genetics, or radioactive tracers used in medicine.

Although biotechnology is publicly associated with cloning and selecting the traits of a child prior to birth, the goal of biotechnology is to advance the tools of medicine and solve problems related to the production of biologically derived products, not the whimsical manipulation of life.

Today, biotechnology, or modern biotechnology, is often associated to the use of genetically altered microorganisms such as E. coli or yeast for producing substances like insulin or antibiotics. It can also refer to transgenic animals or plants, such as Bt corn.

Here is a brief history of biotechnology:

  • 8000BC collecting of seeds for replanting. Evidence that Babylonians, Egyptians and Romans used selective breeding practices to improve livestock.
  • 6000BC brewing beer, fermenting wine, baking bread with help of yeast
  • 4000BC Chinese made yoghurt and cheese with lactic-acid-producing bacteria
  • 1500AD plant collecting around the world
  • 1800AD Nikolai I. Vavilov[?] created comprehensive research on breeding animals
  • 1880AD microorganisms discovered
  • 1856AD Gregor Mendel started recombinant plant genetics
  • 1919AD Karl Ereky[?], a Hungarian engineer, first used the word biotechnology
  • 1980AD modern biotech with recombinant DNA, mostly on best studied E. coli bacteria to produce insulin and other medicins, in human form (rather than before used animal insulins, to which about 5% of diabetics are allergic)
  • much more to add here
  • 2000 completion of Human Genome Project

See also : biochemistry -- molecular biology -- genetic engineering

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