Background: What is Biotechnology?
In simple terms, biotechnology is the field of study oriented around utilizing techniques of molecular biology in order to manipulate the basic building blocks of life and use organisms as tools (1). The whole field of biotechnology requires students and scientists alike to delve into the small details of life, particularly DNA. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic material of organisms. Right now, a lot of the research in biotechnology encompasses DNA and DNA technology. DNA is the genetic material in the cells of an organism, and it gives off instructions for the cell to create vital proteins for the cell’s functions.
Popular Topics in the World of Biotechnology
Genetically Modified Organisms
Since DNA and genes are the roots of the functioning of organisms, scientists have been using genetic engineering increasingly in various fields. For instance, genetically modifying crops is altering the genetic material of a crop in some way. GM crops have revolutionized the agriculture industry. Not only has it enabled farmers to produce larger yields of produce, but it has provided scientists with a possible way to prepare for a larger world population. As the world population continues to grow, GM crops provide a solution to the future decrease in the food production to arable land ratio. If the same land can produce greater yields of produce with greater quality, farmers can reduce food waste and have more crops to sell. Right now, GMOs are controversial. However, genetically modifying crops is not chemically treating crops. Simply, it is inserting the good traits of one crop into another crop in order to either increase a crop’s nutrition, help it combat insects, or help it grow better. Even though the practice of using GMOs seem good, there may be harmful effects. Currently, scientists are running many studies on foods and other crops before releasing to public use, but more research may identify future issues associated with GMOs. With time and countless experiments, genetic engineering is developing and growing.
The field of biotechnology is also dealing with the discussion on biofuels. According to “Energy: In Context,” biofuels are energy sources “derived from renewable biological materials” (2). Right now, crops such as corn and sugar cane are being used to create biofuels like ethanol. Biofuels are essential to the world’s need to reduce the use of fossil fuels. However, biofuels created from crops are expensive. Large yields of crops need to be harvested in order to create biofuels. However, with biotechnology, scientists can find ways to increase crop productions in order to make biofuels more affordable for the nation to utilize.
According to the book Biology, a clone is defined as an organism that is “an identical genetic copy of either a piece of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a cell, or a whole organism”(3). Right now, scientists have been utilizing their ability to clone plants and animals. They use various methods to isolate the DNA of one organism and insert into another. Of course, cloning is not as simple as just isolating DNA and inserting it into an organism. Instead, the 20th-century scientists found that factors such as cell states had to be taken into place. With the amount of information that has been discovered about the human genome, the question of cloning humans has become a debatable question. Sides both for and against the practice have credible reasons.
Next month, let’s delve deeper into specific topics in the field of biotechnology. There is so much to learn about and explore in this field. Scientists are finding new ways to utilize the knowledge on living things each year.
- COLE-TURNER, RONALD. “Biotechnology.” Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, edited by J. Wentzel Vrede van Huyssteen, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, pp. 64-70. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404200058/GVRL?u=caro78187&sid=GVRL&xid=2908f941. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
- Broughton, Andrew. “Biofuel.” Energy: In Context, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, et al., vol. 1, Gale, 2016, pp. 49-52. In Context Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3627100022/GVRL?u=caro78187&sid=GVRL&xid=1359c6ec. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
- Robinson, Richard, and Roxanne Jamrox Argie. “Clone.” Biology, edited by Melissa Sue Hill, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2016, pp. 222-225. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3629800096/GVRL?u=caro78187&sid=GVRL&xid=2dcfbe95. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.