the nature of biotechnology

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, Molecular biology Pages: 8 (1039 words) Published: May 28, 2014

John E. Smith is Emeritus Professor of
Applied Microbiology in the Institute of
Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences,
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and
Scientific Advisor to GlycaNova, Norway.


Biotechnology is the major technology of the twenty-first century – yet few people realise how much it impacts on many aspects of human society. The defining aim of this new fifth edition is to re-establish the correct understanding of the term biotechnology.

Using the straightforward style that made the previous editions of his textbook so popular, John Smith once again helps students and general readers alike with the deciphering and use of biological knowledge. He explains the historical developments in biotechnology and the range of activities from brewing beer, the treatment of sewage and other wastes, and the creation of biofuels.

He also discusses the innovations in molecular biology, genomics and proteomics, systems biology and their impact on new biotechnology. In this edition John Smith also re-examines the ethics and morality of aspects of biotechnology and puts new emphasis on stem cells and regenerative medicine and micro RNA.



I dedicate this fifth edition to my grownup children, Sheri, Jill and Fraser, who have been a constant source of inspiration.


The nature of

1.1 Introduction

Improved awareness of agriculture and metal
working brought mankind out of the Stone Age,
while in the nineteenth century the Industrial
Revolution created a multitude of machinery
together with increasingly larger cities.
The twentieth century was undoubtedly the age
of chemistry and physics, spawning huge industrial
activities such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals,
fertilisers, the atom bomb, transmitters, the laser
and microchips.
The twenty-first century will be dominated by
biology and its associated technologies.

The following chapters will examine how the new biotechnologists are

developing new therapies and cures for many human and animal diseases;

designing diagnostic tests for increasing disease prevention and pollution control;

improving many aspects of plant and animal agriculture and food production;

cleaning-up and improving the environment;

designing clean industrial manufacturing processes;

exploring the potential for biological fuel generation;

and unravelling the power of stem cell technology.

Undoubtedly, biotechnology can be seen to be the most innovative technology that mankind has witnessed.

The development of biotechnological products is knowledge and resource intensive.

1.2 What is biotechnology?
Modern biology is the most diversified of all the
natural sciences, exhibiting a bewildering array of
subdisciplines: microbiology, plant and animal
anatomy, biochemistry, immunology, cell biology,
molecular biology, plant and animal physiology,
morphogenesis, systematics, ecology, genetics and
many others.
 In the last two decades well over 20 Nobel prizes
have been awarded for discoveries in these fields
of study.
 The life sciences affect over 30% of global
economic turnover by way of healthcare, food
and energy, agriculture and forestry.

Biotechnology will be shown to cover a multitude of
different applications ranging from the very simple and
traditional, such as the production of beers,
wines and cheeses, to highly complex molecular
processes, such as the use of recombinant DNA
technologies to yield new drugs or to introduce new
traits into commercial crops and animals.
The European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB)
considers biotechnology as ‘the integration of
natural sciences and organisms, cells, parts
thereof, and molecular analogues for products
and services

The aims of this federation
(1) to advance biotechnology for the...
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