Monday, May 19, 2014

What is Biotechnology?

Recently, I was witness to an interesting exchange between two professors. One was using Tissue Culture to raise orchids, and sell them to farmers, while the other ran 'Biotech Park' where the latest gene-splicing technology was being used to make recombinant-DNA products. The latter insisted that Tissue Culture was merely 'agriculture' and that it did not qualify to be called Biotechnology.

So what is Biotechnology?

According to the United Nations,

"Biotechnology refers to any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use."
(Article 2 of the Convention of Biological Diversity and Article 2(d) of the Nagoya Protocol)

OECD says the same thing a bit more precisely:

Biotechnology refers to activities that apply scientific logic and technologies to organisms, parts or part of an organism, products, and product-related models in the process of modifying living organisms or non-living things with the aim of producing knowledge, goods, and services (OECD data, 2004)

Government of India has a definition colored by socialism:

"Biotechnology... refers to tools and technologies that address the problems of agriculture productivity, food production, nutrition security, health care and environmental sustainability by providing new and emerging products and services at affordable prices, generate employment opportunities and make India globally competitive in the emerging bio-economy."
(DBT - Vision)

Wikipedia prefers to keep it short and simple:

"Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products"

Whichever way you look at it, Biotechnology seems to include everything from TC to gene manipulation.

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