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Article by: Manu Thomas

Form time immemorial man was always fascinated by ‘The Nature’- his creator, sustainer and destroyer. All his searches for truth were a return to the nature herself. Biotechnology is a technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science, and medicine. The roots of this newly coined word-biotechnology can be seen in the records of the ancient world of Mesopotamia when they started collecting seeds for replanting as early as 8000BC. From there mankind went through a sequence of frontiers in the fields of biotechnology. They discovered the secret of brewing beer, fermenting wine, baking bread with help of yeast. Chinese first made yogurt and cheese with lactic-acid-producing bacteria. With the breakthrough invention of microscope, microorganisms were discovered and biotechnology took a different perspective all together.

The priestly scientist George Mendel proposed the Law of Inheritance by 1856AD and thus opened the doors of genetics which made more and more inquisitive minds get fascinated by the field of biotechnology thus triggering its growth by leaps and bounds. But it was in 1919AD that Karl Ereky, a Hungarian agricultural engineer coined the term biotechnology. And after the discovery of the double stranded “code of life” by James D. Watson and Francis Crick, termed as DNA and the unparallel series of discoveries, inventions and innovations followed, Biotechnology is now the most promising filed in the science of life.

Of the many different definitions available, the one formulated by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is one of the broadest: "Biotechnology means any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use." Biotechnology can also be defined with: "Biotechnology is the manipulation of organisms to do practical things and to provide useful products." One section of biotechnology is the directed use of organisms for the manufacture of organic products (examples include beer, milk products, and skin). Naturally present bacteria are utilized by the mining industry in bioleaching. Biotechnology is also used to recycle, treat waste, clean up sites contaminated by industrial activities (bioremediation), and produce biological weapons. There are also applications of biotechnology that do not use living organisms. Examples are DNA micro arrays used in genetics and radioactive tracers used in medicine.

Modern biotechnology is often associated with the use of genetically altered microorganisms such as E. coli or yeast for the production of substances like insulin or antibiotics. It can also refer to transgenic animals or transgenic plants, such as Bt corn. Genetically altered mammalian cells, such as Chinese Hamster Ovarian (CHO) cells, are also widely used to manufacture pharmaceuticals. Another promising new biotechnology application is the development of plant-made pharmaceuticals. Biotechnology is also commonly associated with breakthroughs in new medical therapies and diagnostic devices

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