The Need for Biotechnology

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Today there are over six billion people in the world. In the country of India alone, there are over one billion people. Projections are that by the year 2050, world population could approach 10 billion people. If these projections are close to correct, there is a lot of uncertainty about how the earth  will support all of these people. One thing is absolutely certain; all these people will have to be fed. Even today, hundreds of millions of people in lesser-developed countries do not have an adequate supply of food. Many of these countries do not even have enough calorie intake to sustain their body weight and carry out light activities. Most of the increase in the world’s population will come from the lesser developed countries.
In the past, a large part of the population of lesser-developed countries lived in rural areas where they could produce at least a part of their food. The major portion of the projected population growth is expected to take place in the major cities of these country where there is no opportunity for people to grow a portion of their own food supply. This means that food will have to be produced and shipped into the cities at a much greater rate than ever before.
Much of the increase in productivity began in the 1970s with what was termed the Green Revolution. During this time, developments in conventional crop breeding, new pesticides, and management techniques started a dramatic increase in the amount of food produced each year. The greatest increase came about in rice and wheat, which are two of the world’s leading food staples.
Since about the mid-1990s statistics have shown that the yearly rate of increase for these crops is decreasing. Also there is evidence that productivity increase in other areas have slowed. For example, one of the stable food crops in many developing countries is a tropical root known as cassava. Since 1970, the amount of land devoted to the production of cassava has increased about 43 percent while the amount of production increased by only 20 percent during that time. This is an indication that poorer quality land is being put into production. This has tremendous implications not only for feeding people but for the impact on the environment. Biotechnology holds an enormous potential for feeding the world’s population.
The technology exist to enable us to engineer plants and animals to produce more efficiently. Better growth, higher yields, and shorter generations can be achieved by changing the genetic makeup of organisms to give them more highly desired characteristic. In addition genetic engineering can produce plants and animals that can be used for food that is much more nutritious than that grown using conventional breeding.
One of the real advantages of biotechnology is that producers can use the technology without having to invest in additional machinery, equipment, land, or other capital outlay. Producers rely on genetic improvement of the plants or animals they produce to increase production and lower cost, the disadvantages of which is the high cost of research and development that went into producing the new organism. However, once this initial start-up cost is paid, the new technology is usually quite a bit less expensive.

Defining Biotechnology

Monday, August 8, 2011

There are many ways to define biotechnology. One of the simplest definitions is that it is the manipulation of living organisms or parts of organisms to make products useful to human. The definition generally includes working with a whole plant or animal and all the systems that make up the organism. Another way to define the term is that it is using knowledge of cells to modify their activities in order to make living organisms more effective in serving people. Biotech at this level deals with the cells of plants or animals and may even include cells of organisms such as viruses that are neither plant nor animal.
Still another definition of biotechnology is that is deals with genetically manipulating organism to alter their behavior, characteristics, or value. This type of biotech is by far the one with the most potential and the most controversial. Throughout this text, we will explore all the definitions of bio technology and how humans have developed technology for use with living organisms.
One reason the development of biotechnology has been so difficult is that scientist use living organisms that grow and reproduce. Also, in the case of higher-ordered animals, the care and welfare of the animals have to be taken into consideration. Manipulation of cells and cell function has to be done carefully with many safeguards to govern the process.
This adds complications not encountered with most processes in the physical sciences. The public is very hesitant to accept organisms that were produced through means that it considers to be unnatural. People are reluctant to accept anything they don’t understand, particularly if it relates to the food they consume.
A large part of what is described as biotechnology is that of cell and gene technology used to produce new characteristics in plants or animals. This technology is used in a wide variety of ways to improve the plants and animals we produce for human use. The traditional breeding of plants and animals takes a tremendous amount of time because scientist have to wait for each new generation of plants or animals in order to observe the results. The desired result may not occur, and the scientist then have to wait for another generation. With genetically engineered organisms, scientist can place the particular gene that control the desired characteristic in the precise place on the chromosome. In this way, the anticipated result can be achieved in the next generation of plant or animal.