Biotechnology consists of the use of living organisms, or their metabolisms, to obtain products and improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms to be used for specific purposes in the various sectors of human activity. Biotechnologies are fundamentally oriented to improve the efficiency of production techniques, both in the agricultural, industrial and biomedical fields. With regard to the agricultural sector, the objective of biotechnology is to improve the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the food currently available, also with a view to the sustainable development of the sector.
Applications of biotechnology
It has a large number of applications, although it is usually classified as follows:
It is used for medical processes, that is, it is based on obtaining antibiotics, vaccines, new drugs, new forms of molecular diagnosis, regenerative therapies and the application of genetic engineering to cure diseases.
It is exclusively applied to improve industrial processes, that is, it studies microorganisms in order to obtain better catalysts, eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals or clean them from work areas and obtain new materials. Its main goal is the development of biodegradable products.
It is specialized in the improvement of agricultural processes. It has obtained the obtaining of transgenic plants resistant to terrains and adverse environmental conditions as well as resistant to diseases and pests. This biotechnology is based on obtaining agricultural solutions that do not affect the environment.
It is known as marine biotechnology. It is responsible for the development of aquaculture, care of marine creatures , water treatment and production of food derived from the sea.
Advantages of biotechnology.
The reproduction of genetic material with biotechnology allows us to act in an extremely selective manner. There are numerous potential advantages:
- The possibility of making plants acquire new characteristics that cannot be obtained with traditional techniques. The technical procedure is very simple, consisting of the addition of a precise DNA sequence.
- For technological progress, and especially for science, the above represents absolutely a quality passage compared to normal selection techniques, both the probability of success and the possibility of knowing precisely what has been altered.
- Possibility of making the plants resistant to the attacks of parasites through resistant genes.
- A great advantage is the higher quality of fruits and vegetables. With the introduction of antigens, such as bananas, populations could easily be immune to diseases such as hepatitis B, or the use of an enriched rice type of lack of vitamins eg: golden rice thanks to genes introduced they may be particularly useful for populations for which rice is essentially the sole or main food.
- The vegetables and fruits have better flavor and a larger size.
- It will solve the food problems of the growing world population and of areas of difficult access or with poor land for cultivation.
- It improves industrial processes and makes them cleaner and less polluting for workers and the environment.
- Superior performance. Through GMOs, crop yield increases, giving more food for fewer resources, decreasing harvests lost due to disease or pests as well as environmental factors.
- Pesticide reduction. Each time a GMO is modified to resist a certain pest, it is helping to reduce the use of the pesticides associated with it, which usually cause great environmental and health damage.
- Improvement in nutrition. It can get to introduce vitamins and additional proteins in food as well as reduce allergens and natural toxins. You can also try to cultivate in extreme conditions what would help countries that have less food.
- Improvement in the development of new materials
Disadvantages of biotechnology
Biotechnology also has a number of risk and disadvantages :
- Given that the introduction of foreign genes to the diet, and therefore, to the human body can be dangerous, a potential risk could be the transfer of potentially allergenic proteins, that is, capable of determining, in some hypersensitive subjects, food intolerances. .
- To apply biotechnology requires high investments of money in the purchase of genetically improved seeds. Many farmers do not have the resources so their productions will be technologically disadvantaged against those producers who can apply biotechnology.
- With genetic manipulation, a modified gene is transferred to the DNA of a given organism, in such a way that it produces a protein that the starting organism cannot build.
- According to studies they would not be dangerous but, nevertheless, the uncertainties persist and there are not enough guarantees for consumers. The precautionary principle is discussed.
- Risks to the environment.Among the risks to the environment is the possibility of cross-pollination, whereby pollen from genetically modified crops (GM) is spread to non-GM crops in nearby fields, so certain characteristics such as resistance to the herbicides of GM plants to those that are not GM.This could lead, for example, to the development of more aggressive weeds or wild relatives with greater resistance to diseases or abiotic stresses, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem.
- Other ecological risks arise from the widespread use of genetically modified crops with genes that produce insecticidal toxins, such as the Bacillus thuringiensis gene. This can lead to the development of resistance to the gene in insect populations that are exposed to GM crops. There may also be risk for non-target species, such as birds and butterflies, for plants with insecticidal genes.
- Biodiversity can also be lost, for example, as a result of the displacement of traditional crops by a small number of genetically modified crops. “
- In general, the processes of advancing the agricultural frontier in tropical and subtropical areas usually generate negative environmental impacts, among others: processes of soil erosion greater than in temperate areas and loss of biodiversity.
- Health risks. There are risks of transferring toxins from one life form to another, of creating new toxins or of transferring allergenic compounds from one species to another, which could lead to unforeseen allergic reactions.
- There is a risk that modified bacteria and viruses will escape from high-security laboratories and infect the human or animal population
- Biological agents are classified, according to the risk of infection, into four groups
Group biological agent that is unlikely to cause disease in man.
Biological agent of the group that can cause a disease in man and can pose a danger to workers, it is unlikely that it spreads to the community and there is generally prophylaxis or effective treatment.
Biological agent of the group that can cause a serious illness in man and presents a serious danger to workers, with the risk of spreading to the community and generally existing prophylaxis or effective treatment.
Biological agent of the group that causes a serious illness in man is a serious danger for workers, with a high probability of spreading to the community and without there generally being prophylaxis or effective treatment.
- The processes of agricultural modernization, in addition to the increase in production and yields, have other consequences.
One of them is the decrease in the labor force employed by the effects of mechanization; this generates unemployment and rural exodus in many areas.
On the other hand, to take advantage of new technologies, money and access to land and water are required. Poor farmers who cannot access these resources are left out of modernization and in worse conditions to compete with modern productions.
I have given quite a number of advantages and disadvantages of biotechnology if you think I forgot any you can put in the comment section.