Biotechnology

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Insulin crystals

Biotechnology (commonly abbreviated as biotech) is the broad area of biology involving living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. 2). [1] Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of molecular biology, bio-engineering, biomedical engineering, biomanufacturing, molecular engineering, etc.

Convention on Biological Diversity International treaty

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty. The Convention has three main goals including: the conservation of biological diversity ; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

Molecular biology branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity

Molecular biology is a branch of biology that concerns the molecular basis of biological activity between biomolecules in the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between DNA, RNA, proteins and their biosynthesis, as well as the regulation of these interactions. Writing in Nature in 1961, William Astbury described molecular biology as:

...not so much a technique as an approach, an approach from the viewpoint of the so-called basic sciences with the leading idea of searching below the large-scale manifestations of classical biology for the corresponding molecular plan. It is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and [...] is predominantly three-dimensional and structural – which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function.

Biomedical engineering Application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes

Biomedical Engineering (BME) or Medical Engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes. This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine, combining the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical biological sciences to advance health care treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy. Also included under the scope of a biomedical engineer is the management of current medical equipment within hospitals while adhering to relevant industry standards. This involves equipment recommendations, procurement, routine testing and preventative maintenance, through to decommissioning and disposal. This role is also known as a Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET) or clinical engineering.

Contents

For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine. [2] The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests. [2]

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Medicine The science and practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of physical and mental illnesses

Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Engineer professional practitioner of engineering and its sub classes

Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfill objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice and passage of engineering board examinations.

Definitions

The wide concept of "biotech" or "biotechnology" encompasses a wide range of procedures for modifying living organisms according to human purposes, going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of the plants, and "improvements" to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. Modern usage also includes genetic engineering as well as cell and tissue culture technologies. The American Chemical Society defines biotechnology as the application of biological organisms, systems, or processes by various industries to learning about the science of life and the improvement of the value of materials and organisms such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and livestock. [3] Per the European Federation of Biotechnology, biotechnology is the integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services. [4] Biotechnology is based on the basic biological sciences (e.g. molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, embryology, genetics, microbiology) and conversely provides methods to support and perform basic research in biology.

Domestication selective breeding of plants and animals to serve humans

Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that second group.

Hybrid (biology) offspring of cross-species reproduction

In biology, a hybrid is the offspring resulting from combining the qualities of two organisms of different breeds, varieties, species or genera through sexual reproduction. Hybrids are not always intermediates between their parents, but can show hybrid vigour, sometimes growing larger or taller than either parent. The concept of a hybrid is interpreted differently in animal and plant breeding, where there is interest in the individual parentage. In genetics, attention is focused on the numbers of chromosomes. In taxonomy, a key question is how closely related the parent species are.

Genetic engineering Direct manipulation of an organisms genome using biotechnology

Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genes using biotechnology. It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms. New DNA is obtained by either isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using recombinant DNA methods or by artificially synthesising the DNA. A construct is usually created and used to insert this DNA into the host organism. The first recombinant DNA molecule was made by Paul Berg in 1972 by combining DNA from the monkey virus SV40 with the lambda virus. As well as inserting genes, the process can be used to remove, or "knock out", genes. The new DNA can be inserted randomly, or targeted to a specific part of the genome.

Biotechnology is the research and development in the laboratory using bioinformatics for exploration, extraction, exploitation and production from any living organisms and any source of biomass by means of biochemical engineering where high value-added products could be planned (reproduced by biosynthesis, for example), forecasted, formulated, developed, manufactured, and marketed for the purpose of sustainable operations (for the return from bottomless initial investment on R & D) and gaining durable patents rights (for exclusives rights for sales, and prior to this to receive national and international approval from the results on animal experiment and human experiment, especially on the pharmaceutical branch of biotechnology to prevent any undetected side-effects or safety concerns by using the products). [5] [6] [7] The utilization of biological processes, organisms or systems to produce products that are anticipated to improve human lives is termed biotechnology. [8]

Research and development general term for activities in connection with corporate or governmental innovation

Research and development, the

known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), refers to innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, or improving existing services or products. Research and development constitutes the first stage of development of a potential new service or the production process.
Laboratory facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed.

A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed.

Bioinformatics Software tools for understanding biological data

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. As an interdisciplinary field of science, bioinformatics combines biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics and statistics to analyze and interpret biological data. Bioinformatics has been used for in silico analyses of biological queries using mathematical and statistical techniques.

By contrast, bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field that more heavily emphasizes higher systems approaches (not necessarily the altering or using of biological materials directly) for interfacing with and utilizing living things. Bioengineering is the application of the principles of engineering and natural sciences to tissues, cells and molecules. This can be considered as the use of knowledge from working with and manipulating biology to achieve a result that can improve functions in plants and animals. [9] Relatedly, biomedical engineering is an overlapping field that often draws upon and applies biotechnology (by various definitions), especially in certain sub-fields of biomedical or chemical engineering such as tissue engineering, biopharmaceutical engineering, and genetic engineering.

Chemical engineering branch of science that applies physical sciences and life sciences together with applied mathematics and economics to produce, transform, transport, and properly use chemicals, materials and energy

Chemical engineering is a branch of engineering that uses principles of chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology, and economics to efficiently use, produce, transform, and transport chemicals, materials, and energy. A chemical engineer designs large-scale processes that convert chemicals, raw materials, living cells, microorganisms, and energy into useful forms and products.

Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering is the use of a combination of cells, engineering and materials methods, and suitable biochemical and physicochemical factors to improve or replace biological tissues. Tissue engineering involves the use of a tissue scaffold for the formation of new viable tissue for a medical purpose. While it was once categorized as a sub-field of biomaterials, having grown in scope and importance it can be considered as a field in its own.

Pharmaceutical engineering is a branch of engineering focused on discovering, formulating, and manufacturing medication, as well as analytical and quality control processes. It utilizes the fields of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, and pharmaceutical sciences.

History

Brewing was an early application of biotechnology The Brewer designed and engraved in the Sixteenth. Century by J Amman.png
Brewing was an early application of biotechnology

Although not normally what first comes to mind, many forms of human-derived agriculture clearly fit the broad definition of "'utilizing a biotechnological system to make products". Indeed, the cultivation of plants may be viewed as the earliest biotechnological enterprise.

Agriculture has been theorized to have become the dominant way of producing food since the Neolithic Revolution. Through early biotechnology, the earliest farmers selected and bred the best suited crops, having the highest yields, to produce enough food to support a growing population. As crops and fields became increasingly large and difficult to maintain, it was discovered that specific organisms and their by-products could effectively fertilize, restore nitrogen, and control pests. Throughout the history of agriculture, farmers have inadvertently altered the genetics of their crops through introducing them to new environments and breeding them with other plants — one of the first forms of biotechnology.

These processes also were included in early fermentation of beer. [10] These processes were introduced in early Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, and still use the same basic biological methods. In brewing, malted grains (containing enzymes) convert starch from grains into sugar and then adding specific yeasts to produce beer. In this process, carbohydrates in the grains broke down into alcohols, such as ethanol. Later, other cultures produced the process of lactic acid fermentation, which produced other preserved foods, such as soy sauce. Fermentation was also used in this time period to produce leavened bread. Although the process of fermentation was not fully understood until Louis Pasteur's work in 1857, it is still the first use of biotechnology to convert a food source into another form.

Before the time of Charles Darwin's work and life, animal and plant scientists had already used selective breeding. Darwin added to that body of work with his scientific observations about the ability of science to change species. These accounts contributed to Darwin's theory of natural selection. [11]

For thousands of years, humans have used selective breeding to improve production of crops and livestock to use them for food. In selective breeding, organisms with desirable characteristics are mated to produce offspring with the same characteristics. For example, this technique was used with corn to produce the largest and sweetest crops. [12]

In the early twentieth century scientists gained a greater understanding of microbiology and explored ways of manufacturing specific products. In 1917, Chaim Weizmann first used a pure microbiological culture in an industrial process, that of manufacturing corn starch using Clostridium acetobutylicum, to produce acetone, which the United Kingdom desperately needed to manufacture explosives during World War I. [13]

Biotechnology has also led to the development of antibiotics. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the mold Penicillium . His work led to the purification of the antibiotic compound formed by the mold by Howard Florey, Ernst Boris Chain and Norman Heatley – to form what we today know as penicillin. In 1940, penicillin became available for medicinal use to treat bacterial infections in humans. [12]

The field of modern biotechnology is generally thought of as having been born in 1971 when Paul Berg's (Stanford) experiments in gene splicing had early success. Herbert W. Boyer (Univ. Calif. at San Francisco) and Stanley N. Cohen (Stanford) significantly advanced the new technology in 1972 by transferring genetic material into a bacterium, such that the imported material would be reproduced. The commercial viability of a biotechnology industry was significantly expanded on June 16, 1980, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that a genetically modified microorganism could be patented in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty . [14] Indian-born Ananda Chakrabarty, working for General Electric, had modified a bacterium (of the genus Pseudomonas ) capable of breaking down crude oil, which he proposed to use in treating oil spills. (Chakrabarty's work did not involve gene manipulation but rather the transfer of entire organelles between strains of the Pseudomonas bacterium.

Revenue in the industry is expected to grow by 12.9% in 2008.

Another factor influencing the biotechnology sector's success is improved intellectual property rights legislation—and enforcement—worldwide, as well as strengthened demand for medical and pharmaceutical products to cope with an ageing, and ailing, U.S. population. [15]

Rising demand for biofuels is expected to be good news for the biotechnology sector, with the Department of Energy estimating ethanol usage could reduce U.S. petroleum-derived fuel consumption by up to 30% by 2030. The biotechnology sector has allowed the U.S. farming industry to rapidly increase its supply of corn and soybeans—the main inputs into biofuels—by developing genetically modified seeds that resist pests and drought. By increasing farm productivity, biotechnology boosts biofuel production. [16]

Examples

A rose plant that began as cells grown in a tissue culture Rose grown from tissue culture.jpg
A rose plant that began as cells grown in a tissue culture

Biotechnology has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non-food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastics, vegetable oil, biofuels), and environmental uses.

For example, one application of biotechnology is the directed use of microorganisms for the manufacture of organic products (examples include beer and milk products). Another example is using naturally present bacteria by the mining industry in bioleaching. Biotechnology is also used to recycle, treat waste, clean up sites contaminated by industrial activities (bioremediation), and also to produce biological weapons.

A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology, for example:

Medicine

In medicine, modern biotechnology has many applications in areas such as pharmaceutical drug discoveries and production, pharmacogenomics, and genetic testing (or genetic screening).

DNA microarray chip - some can do as many as a million blood tests at once Microarray2.gif
DNA microarray chip – some can do as many as a million blood tests at once

Pharmacogenomics (a combination of pharmacology and genomics) is the technology that analyses how genetic makeup affects an individual's response to drugs. [26] Researchers in the field investigate the influence of genetic variation on drug responses in patients by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a drug's efficacy or toxicity. [27] The purpose of pharmacogenomics is to develop rational means to optimize drug therapy, with respect to the patients' genotype, to ensure maximum efficacy with minimal adverse effects. [28] Such approaches promise the advent of "personalized medicine"; in which drugs and drug combinations are optimized for each individual's unique genetic makeup. [29] [30]

Computer-generated image of insulin hexamers highlighting the threefold symmetry, the zinc ions holding it together, and the histidine residues involved in zinc binding. InsulinHexamer.jpg
Computer-generated image of insulin hexamers highlighting the threefold symmetry, the zinc ions holding it together, and the histidine residues involved in zinc binding.

Biotechnology has contributed to the discovery and manufacturing of traditional small molecule pharmaceutical drugs as well as drugs that are the product of biotechnology – biopharmaceutics. Modern biotechnology can be used to manufacture existing medicines relatively easily and cheaply. The first genetically engineered products were medicines designed to treat human diseases. To cite one example, in 1978 Genentech developed synthetic humanized insulin by joining its gene with a plasmid vector inserted into the bacterium Escherichia coli . Insulin, widely used for the treatment of diabetes, was previously extracted from the pancreas of abattoir animals (cattle or pigs). The genetically engineered bacteria are able to produce large quantities of synthetic human insulin at relatively low cost. [31] [32] Biotechnology has also enabled emerging therapeutics like gene therapy. The application of biotechnology to basic science (for example through the Human Genome Project) has also dramatically improved our understanding of biology and as our scientific knowledge of normal and disease biology has increased, our ability to develop new medicines to treat previously untreatable diseases has increased as well. [32]

Genetic testing allows the genetic diagnosis of vulnerabilities to inherited diseases, and can also be used to determine a child's parentage (genetic mother and father) or in general a person's ancestry. In addition to studying chromosomes to the level of individual genes, genetic testing in a broader sense includes biochemical tests for the possible presence of genetic diseases, or mutant forms of genes associated with increased risk of developing genetic disorders. Genetic testing identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. [33] Most of the time, testing is used to find changes that are associated with inherited disorders. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. As of 2011 several hundred genetic tests were in use. [34] [35] Since genetic testing may open up ethical or psychological problems, genetic testing is often accompanied by genetic counseling.

Agriculture

Genetically modified crops ("GM crops", or "biotech crops") are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified with genetic engineering techniques. In most cases, the main aim is to introduce a new trait that does not occur naturally in the species. Biotechnology firms can contribute to future food security by improving the nutrition and viability of urban agriculture. Furthermore, the protection of intellectual property rights encourages private sector investment in agrobiotechnology. For example, in Illinois FARM Illinois (Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois) is an initiative to develop and coordinate farmers, industry, research institutions, government, and nonprofits in pursuit of food and agriculture innovation. In addition, the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO) is a life sciences industry association with more than 500 life sciences companies, universities, academic institutions, service providers and others as members. The association describes its members as "dedicated to making Illinois and the surrounding Midwest one of the world’s top life sciences centers." [36]

Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, [37] diseases, [38] stressful environmental conditions, [39] resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to a herbicide [40] ), reduction of spoilage, [41] or improving the nutrient profile of the crop. [42] Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, [43] biofuels, [44] and other industrially useful goods, [45] as well as for bioremediation. [46] [47]

Farmers have widely adopted GM technology. Between 1996 and 2011, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops had increased by a factor of 94, from 17,000 square kilometers (4,200,000 acres) to 1,600,000 km2 (395 million acres). [48] 10% of the world's crop lands were planted with GM crops in 2010. [48] As of 2011, 11 different transgenic crops were grown commercially on 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 29 countries such as the US, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain. [48]

Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA with the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new crop traits as well as a far greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. [49] Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. [50] To date most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed; in November 2013 none were available on the market, [51] but in 2015 the FDA approved the first GM salmon for commercial production and consumption. [52]

There is a scientific consensus [53] [54] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66] but that each GM food must be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. [67] [68] [69] Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. [70] [71] [72] [73] The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation. [74] [75] [76] [77]

GM crops also provide a number of ecological benefits, if not used in excess. [78] However, opponents have objected to GM crops per se on several grounds, including environmental concerns, whether food produced from GM crops is safe, whether GM crops are needed to address the world's food needs, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.

Industrial

Industrial biotechnology (known mainly in Europe as white biotechnology) is the application of biotechnology for industrial purposes, including industrial fermentation. It includes the practice of using cells such as microorganisms, or components of cells like enzymes, to generate industrially useful products in sectors such as chemicals, food and feed, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and biofuels. [79] In the current decades, significant progress has been done in creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that enhance the diversity of applications and economical viability of industrial biotechnology. By using renewable raw materials to produce a variety of chemicals and fuels, industrial biotechnology is actively advancing towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a petrochemical-based economy. [80]

Environmental

The environment can be affected by biotechnologies, both positively and adversely. Vallero and others have argued that the difference between beneficial biotechnology (e.g.bioremediation is to clean up an oil spill or hazard chemical leak) versus the adverse effects stemming from biotechnological enterprises (e.g. flow of genetic material from transgenic organisms into wild strains) can be seen as applications and implications, respectively. [81] Cleaning up environmental wastes is an example of an application of environmental biotechnology; whereas loss of biodiversity or loss of containment of a harmful microbe are examples of environmental implications of biotechnology.

Regulation

The regulation of genetic engineering concerns approaches taken by governments to assess and manage the risks associated with the use of genetic engineering technology, and the development and release of genetically modified organisms (GMO), including genetically modified crops and genetically modified fish. There are differences in the regulation of GMOs between countries, with some of the most marked differences occurring between the USA and Europe. [82] Regulation varies in a given country depending on the intended use of the products of the genetic engineering. For example, a crop not intended for food use is generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety. [83] The European Union differentiates between approval for cultivation within the EU and approval for import and processing. While only a few GMOs have been approved for cultivation in the EU a number of GMOs have been approved for import and processing. [84] The cultivation of GMOs has triggered a debate about coexistence of GM and non GM crops. Depending on the coexistence regulations, incentives for cultivation of GM crops differ. [85]

Learning

In 1988, after prompting from the United States Congress, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (National Institutes of Health) (NIGMS) instituted a funding mechanism for biotechnology training. Universities nationwide compete for these funds to establish Biotechnology Training Programs (BTPs). Each successful application is generally funded for five years then must be competitively renewed. Graduate students in turn compete for acceptance into a BTP; if accepted, then stipend, tuition and health insurance support is provided for two or three years during the course of their Ph.D. thesis work. Nineteen institutions offer NIGMS supported BTPs. [86] Biotechnology training is also offered at the undergraduate level and in community colleges.

See also

References and notes

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Further reading

Related Research Articles

Genetically modified maize

Genetically modified maize (corn) is a genetically modified crop. Specific maize strains have been genetically engineered to express agriculturally-desirable traits, including resistance to pests and to herbicides. Maize strains with both traits are now in use in multiple countries. GM maize has also caused controversy with respect to possible health effects, impact on other insects and impact on other plants via gene flow. One strain, called Starlink, was approved only for animal feed in the US, but was found in food, leading to a series of recalls starting in 2000.

Genetically modified organism Organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering methods

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. The exact definition of a genetically modified organism and what constitutes genetic engineering varies, with the most common being an organism altered in a way that "does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination". A wide variety of organisms have been genetically modified (GM), from animals to plants and microorganisms. Genes have been transferred within the same species, across species and even across kingdoms. New genes can be introduced, or endogenous genes can be enhanced, altered or knocked out.

Agricultural biotechnology, also known as agritech, is an area of agricultural science involving the use of scientific tools and techniques, including genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines, and tissue culture, to modify living organisms: plants, animals, and microorganisms. Crop biotechnology is one aspect of agricultural biotechnology which has been greatly developed upon in recent times. Desired trait are exported from a particular species of Crop to an entirely different species. These transgene crops possess desirable characteristics in terms of flavor, color of flowers, growth rate, size of harvested products and resistance to diseases and pests.

Genetically modified food

Genetically modified foods, also known as genetically engineered foods, or bioengineered foods are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits when compared to previous methods, such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.

Pharming, a portmanteau of "farming" and "pharmaceutical", refers to the use of genetic engineering to insert genes that code for useful pharmaceuticals into host animals or plants that would otherwise not express those genes, thus creating a genetically modified organism (GMO). Pharming is also known as molecular farming, molecular pharming or biopharming.

Genetically modified crops plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques

Genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering methods. In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, resistance to chemical treatments, or improving the nutrient profile of the crop. Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels, and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bioremediation.

This page provides an alphabetical list of articles and other pages about biotechnology. For other overviews of the topic, please see the Biotechnology portal.

Since the advent of genetic engineering in the 1970s, concerns have been raised about the dangers of the technology. Laws, regulations, and treaties were created in the years following to contain genetically modified organisms and prevent their escape. Nevertheless, there are several examples of failure to keep GM crops separate from conventional ones.

Genetically modified food controversies Controversies over GMO food

Genetically modified food controversies are disputes over the use of foods and other goods derived from genetically modified crops instead of conventional crops, and other uses of genetic engineering in food production. The disputes involve consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations, and scientists. The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified food are whether such food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the objectivity of scientific research and publication, the effect of genetically modified crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of such crops for farmers, and the role of the crops in feeding the world population. In addition, products derived from GMO organisms play a role in the production of ethanol fuels and pharmaceuticals.

The United States is the largest grower of commercial crops that have been genetically engineered in the world, but not without domestic and international opposition.

Religious views on genetically modified foods have been mixed, although as yet, no genetically modified foods have been designated as unacceptable by religious authorities.

A genetically modified soybean is a soybean that has had DNA introduced into it using genetic engineering techniques. In 1998 the first genetically modified soybean was introduced to the U.S. market, by Monsanto. In 2014, 90.7 million hectares of GM soy were planted worldwide, 82% of the total soy cultivation area.

Genetically modified canola is a genetically modified crop. The first strain, Roundup Ready canola, was developed by Monsanto for tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the commonly used herbicide Roundup.

Regulation of genetic engineering

The regulation of genetic engineering varies widely by country. Countries such as the United States, Canada, Lebanon and Egypt use substantial equivalence as the starting point when assessing safety, while many countries such as those in the European Union, Brazil and China authorize GMO cultivation on a case-by-case basis. Many countries allow the import of GM food with authorization, but either do not allow its cultivation or have provisions for cultivation, but no GM products are yet produced. Most countries that do not allow for GMO cultivation do permit research. One of the key issues concerning regulators is whether GM products should be labeled. Labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in 64 countries. Labeling can be mandatory up to a threshold GM content level or voluntary. A study investigating voluntary labeling in South Africa found that 31% of products labeled as GMO-free had a GM content above 1.0%. In Canada and the USA labeling of GM food is voluntary, while in Europe all food or feed which contains greater than 0.9% of approved GMOs must be labelled.

Genetically modified food in Europe

Genetic engineering in Europe has varying degrees of regulation.

GMO Answers launched by the agricultural biotechnology industry in July 2013 to answer consumers' questions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in crops in the U.S. food supply. GMO Answers was created in part to respond to public concern about the safety of GMOs. GMO Answers "expert resources" include conventional and organic farmers, agribusiness experts, scientists, academics, medical doctors and nutritionists, and "company experts" from founding members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, which funds the initiative. Founding members include BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta.

India and China are the two largest producers of genetically modified products in Asia. India currently only grows GM cotton, while China produces GM varieties of cotton, poplar, petunia, tomato, papaya and sweet pepper. Cost of enforcement of regulations in India are generally higher, possibly due to the greater influence farmers and small seed firms have on policy makers, while the enforcement of regulations was more effective in China. Other Asian countries that grew GM crops in 2011 were Pakistan, the Philippines and Myanmar. GM crops were approved for commercialisation in Bangladesh in 2013 and in Vietnam and Indonesia in 2014.

Genetic engineering in North America is any genetic engineering activities in North America