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Understanding Food Biotechnology: A Concise Overview

There are various food resources like plants, microorganisms, and animals. However, there is a difference between a plant, animal, or insect protein. Similarly, there is a distinction between wheat that is perfect for bread and one that is better for pasta. The difference between different foods or within the same type is because of the DNA structure.

If you choose to pursue biotechnology from the various bsc courses in chhattisgarh, you will learn more about DNA and how it affects the quantity and quality of food. Since time eternal, people are using biotechnology in its rudimentary form to provide a genetically superior variety of food. However, there are some drawbacks to the older system.

1. The older system was a time-consuming process. Therefore, it did not yield a faster result and neither encouraged bulk production. In modern times, there is no replacement for speed. Hence, any advancement in the field of biotechnology has to keep in mind a speedy delivery or a faster result.

2. Due to the rampant use of trial and error methods, most of the time, experimenting with food turned out to be unreliable and risky. Therefore, a more scientific approach is needed for a better understanding of the probability of success or failure. Also, it reduces the wastage of time and energy, making the process more effective.

What is rDNA?

Recombinant DNA is a genetic engineering process for better production. In simpler terms, the genes carry different characteristics of a particular crop, for example, rice. If you want to produce a better quality of rice, you need to ensure that you have genetically modified the crop. With rDNA, you can pass on superior genetic attributes from one product to the other without giving the negative traits.

Therefore, you can customize the outcome. If you desire longer grains of rain that are less vulnerable to insect attack, you can modify the DNA to get the same. This helps to improve the quality of the food, and therefore we consume better. It affects our health, energy, growth, and upbringing positively.

How is Food Biotechnology Helping Mankind?

As a student of bsc colleges in Chhattisgarhyou will get to know the benefits of food biotechnology in detail. Among all the advantages, the best is the fact that there will be less environmental harm because, with genetically modified food, farmers need fewer pesticides. Lesser use of chemicals helps to retain the quality of the soil; there is a more deficient chemical intake, it does not meddle with the product taste or quality.

Therefore, a natural and unique solution for chemical-related problems. Also, the products take a long time to ripen. Hence, one can store them for a more extended period, allowing retailers and distributors a helpful grace period. It reduces food wastage, takes away worry from sellers, and allows buyers to purchase the right product.

The more the production in the field, the better is the consumption rate. If the output is massive, then automatically, the prices will come down. Thus food biotechnology is truly a blessing.

1.1. Introduction

The utilization of biological processes, organisms or systems to produce products that are anticipated to improve human lives is termed biotechnology. Broadly, this can be defined as the engineering of organisms for the purpose of human usage. It can also be defined as the skill set required for the utilization of living systems or the influencing of natural processes so as to produce products, systems or environments to help human development. Currently biotechnology places more emphasis on the establishment of hybrid genes followed by their transfer into organisms in which some, or all, of the gene is not usually present. In prehistoric times, a primitive form of biotechnology was practised by agriculturalists who established better-quality species of plants and animals by methods of cross-pollination or cross-breeding. Previous forms of biotechnology include the training and selective breeding of animals, the cultivation of crops and the utilization of micro-organisms to produce products such as cheese, yogurt, bread, beer and wine. Early agriculture concentrated on producing food.

The most primitive type of biotechnology is the cultivation of plants and the training (in particular the domestication) of animals. The domestication of animals stretches back over 10 000 years, when our ancestors also started maintaining plants as a reliable source of food. The earliest examples of such domesticated plants are rice, barley and wheat. Wild animals were also controlled to produce milk or meat. The ancient production of cheese, yogurt and bread from micro-organisms is also reported. Various alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine were developed during this period, when the process of fermentation was first discovered.

Later, it was discovered that micro-organisms, e.g. bacteria, yeast or molds, hydrolyze sugars when they lack oxygen and are ultimately responsible for fermentation. This process results in the formation of products (food and drink). Consequently, fermentation was perhaps first explored by chance, since in earlier times nobody knew how it worked. During the prehistoric era some civilizations considered fermentation to be a gift from their gods. Scientific evidence for fermentation was first described by Louis Pasteur in the late 1800s. He demonstrated a theory known as germ theory, presenting the survival of micro-organisms and their further effects on the process of fermentation. Pasteur’s efforts contributed towards several branches of science. In earlier times several traditional medicines were used as biotechnology products, such as honey, which could be used to treat several respiratory ailments and as an ointment for wounds. Since honey contains several antimicrobial compounds it is considered to be a natural antibiotic and is effectively used in wound healing. Similarly, in China as far back as 600 BC, soybean curds were used to treat boils. Ukrainian farmers once used utilized moldy cheese to treat infected wounds. It was later observed that antibiotics present in such molds killed bacteria and averted the spread of infection. In 1928 Alexander Fleming extracted penicillin, the first antibiotic, from mold. This discovery revolutionized the available treatments, with antibiotics having more potential and being more effective than earlier medicines. The development of biotechnology in terms of crop rotation (including leguminous crops), vaccinations and animal-drawn technology, was realized between the late eighteenth century and the commencement of the nineteenth century. The late nineteenth century was known to be a milestone in biology. Some of the key developments during this period are highlighted below:

  • •  Structures for examining fermentation and other microbial developments were identified by Robert Koch, Pasteur and Joseph Lister.
  • •  Gregor Mendel’s work on genetics was carried out.
  • •  Micro-organisms were discovered.

In the 1920s a start was made on the production of useful chemicals through biological processes, when Chaim Weizmann used Clostridium acetobutylicum for the conversion of starch into butanol and acetone (the acetone thus produced was used as an essential component of explosives during World War I. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, developments in biotechnology tended to bring industry and agriculture together. Later, one some basic processes of biotechnology such as fermentation were refined to develop paint solvents for the emerging automobile industry and acetone from starch. These processes were promoted during World War I. In the 1930s the processes of biotechnology moved more into utilizing surplus agricultural goods to supply industry as a replacement for imports or petrochemicals.

The advent of World War II brought the manufacture of penicillin. The production of antibiotics from micro-organisms became possible when Fleming discovered penicillin, which was later produced at a large scale from cultures of Penicillium notatum (this proved useful for the treatment of wounded soldiers during World War II) . The focus of biotechnology shifted to pharmaceuticals. The Cold War years were ruled by work on micro-organisms for the preparation for biological products along with antibiotics and fermentation processes.

Biotechnology is now being used in numerous disciplines including bioremediation, energy production and food processing agriculture. DNA fingerprinting is often practiced in forensics. Insulin production and other biotech-based medicines (biopharmaceuticals) are produced through cloning of vectors with genes of interest (GOIs). Immunoassays are frequently utilized in medicine for drug efficiency and pregnancy testing. In addition, immunoassays are also utilized by farmers to find hazardous levels of pesticides, herbicides and toxins in crops and animal-based products. These tests also offer rapid field tests for the determination of industrial chemicals, in particular, in ground water, sediment and soil. Biotechnology also has vast scope in agriculture for the production of plants that are resistant to insects, weeds and plant diseases. This can be achieved by the introduction of GOIs using genetic engineering.

Selective breeding of plants and animals was practiced in the past without awareness of the basic concepts of biotechnology. In this procedure organisms with desirable traits were allowed to mate to further enhance these traits in their offspring. Consequently, it was revealed that selective breeding could improve yields as well as productivity. During this time farmers were not aware that selective breeding innovators were modifying the genetic make-up of organisms. An outstanding example is the corn plant, which has been enriched by selective breeding to develop an improved source of food and has given a platform for plant breeders to develop more hybrid varieties. Regarding animals, dogs are another example of selective breeding. Breeding between different dogs was promoted to improve traits e.g. size, agility, shape and color, resulting in breeds from the tiny Chihuahua to the Great Dane. Another revolutionary development in biotechnology that initiated the era of genetics was started in 1865 by a monk, Gregor Mendel, who recognized genes as the unit of inheritance. It took almost another 90 years of research to determine that genes are made up of DNA. This breakthrough was the beginning of modern biotechnology. Recent developments in biotechnology have led to an expansion in its sophistication, scope and applicability. As mentioned above, the simplest way to define biotechnology is to split this word into its two constituent parts (biotechnology = biology + technology). By considering these two key words we can define biotechnology as a set of techniques that are employed to manipulate living organisms, or utilize biological agents or their components, to produce useful products/services. The vast nature of biotechnology has frequently made a detailed definition of the subject rather difficult. Some definitions of biotechnology are as follows:

  • •  ‘Biotechnology means any scientific application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to produce or alter products or processes for particular use’.
  • •  ‘The utilization of living organisms, systems or processes constitutes biotechnology’.
  • •  Based on the Collins English Dictionary definition, biotechnology is the employment of living organisms, their parts or processes, to develop active and useful products and to provide services e.g. waste treatment. The term signifies a broad range of processes, from the use of earthworms as a source of protein to the genetic modification of bacteria to offer human gene products, e.g. growth hormones.
  • •  According to the Golden Treasury of Science and Technology, biotechnology is a discipline based on the harnessing of life processes which are controlled for the bulk production of valuable substances.

It is obvious from the above definitions that biotechnology includes different technologies that rely on information gained by modern discoveries in biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology. These technologies are already having a huge impact on diverse areas of life, including agriculture, food processing, medical technology and waste treatment.

  1. •  Biotechnology consists of ‘the controlled employment of biological agents, e.g. micro-organisms or cellular components, for favorable use’
  2. •  Biotechnology has been defined as ‘Janus-faced’ This means that there are two sides to it. On one side, we know that the technology allows DNA to be modified so that genes can be moved from one organism to another. On the other, it also entails comparatively new techniques whose results are untested and should be met with care.
  3. •  Biotechnology is ‘the integrated use of microbiology, biochemistry and engineering sciences in production or as service operation’
  4. •  Biotechnology is the commercial employment of micro-organisms and living plant and animal cells to create substances or effects beneficial to people. It includes the production of antibiotics, vitamins, vaccines, plastics, etc
  5. •  ‘Bio’ refers to life and ‘technology’ refers to the application of information for practical use, i.e. the application of living organisms to create or improve a product
  6. •  It involves the industrial application of living organisms or their products, which entails the intentional manipulation of their DNA molecules. It may mean making a living cell execute a particular task in a predictable and controllable way
  7. •  The term biotechnology is occasionally also applied to processes in which micro-organisms such as yeasts and bacteria are cultured under strictly controlled environmental conditions. For this reason, fermentation is occasionally called the oldest form of biotechnology. Genetic engineering techniques are frequently, but not always, used in biotechnology
  8. •  The Universities Press Dictionary of Biology defines biotechnology as ‘the application of technology to biological processes for industrial, agricultural and medical purposes
  9. •  The Oxford Dictionary of Biology defines biotechnology as ‘the development of techniques for the application of biological processes to the production of materials of use in medicine and industry.’
  10. •  The employment of cells and biological molecules to explain problems or make valuable products. These biological molecules include DNA, RNA and proteins.
  11. •  Biotechnology may be defined as ‘the utilization of living organisms in systems or processes for the production of valuable products; it may involve algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, cells of higher plants and animals or subsystems of any of these or isolated components from living matter’

It may be seen that the diverse definitions of biotechnology above differ in their approach, content and emphasis. But there are two main characteristics common to them all are. First, biotechnology involves the exploitation of biological entities (i.e. micro-organisms, cells of higher organisms—either living or dead), their components or constituents (e.g. enzymes), in such a way that some functional product or service is generated. Second, this product or service should aim to improve human welfare.

In summary, biotechnology is the ‘[a]pplication of the theory of engineering and biological science to generate new products from raw materials of biological origin, e.g. vaccines or food’, or, in other words, it can also be defined as ‘the exploitation of living organism/s or their product/s to change or improve human health and human surroundings’

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