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How Biotechnology Affects The Earths Biodiversity

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Biotechnology is defined as “the exploitation of living systems and biological processes to develop tools for technological use”. It may be applied in areas such as industry, medicine, environmental sciences as well as computer design. The field of biotechnology is very broad because there is such a wealth of biological phenomena which we could harness for human benefit. However, although these biological advances have positive and reliable uses in today’s society, it also poses various ethical and social concerns affecting the earths biodiversity.

Humans have been using biological processes to improve their lifestyles long before genes and DNA were understood, or the term “biotechnology” was first used. The word “artificial selection” was originally coined by Charles Darwin as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Most historic biotechnology was discovered by accident or through simple observation of nature and was then used to improve everyday life. For example, agriculture developed in ancient times when humans needed to grow their food closer to home to aid travelling long distances for supplies. Plant seeds for crops were tended to by experimenting with different amounts of water, light and nutrients, and crop improvement soon developed where the most successful plants were used to obtain seeds for future crops. The manipulation of biological processes for humans use in early agriculture was the basis of biotechnology. The deliberate selection and breeding of individual with favourable characteristics is known as artificial selection. It is carried out with the intention of retaining favourable characteristics in future generations. For example, corn existed in 5000BC with small cobs and few kernels. By 1500AD, selective breeding had produced corn cobs that were almost five times the size of ancestral corn cobs, being larger and juicier. Early agriculture also involved the domestication of wild animals by using selective breeding to produce animals suitable for food and transport. A classical example is the mule, which is cross bred from a female horse and a male donkey. Mules were commonly used in ancient times for the transport of heavy loads. Dogs have also been artificially cross bred for a variety of reasons. Crossbreeding two purebred organisms, will result in offspring with inherit desirable traits. For example, Poodles are crossed with Labrador Retrievers to combine a Poodles low shedding coat with the Labrador’s calm, trainable features, resulting in a cross-bred labradoodle.

Biotechnology can be used in the field of medicine, animal biotechnology and aquaculture. There are various recombinant DNA techniques such as gene sequencing which are currently being used in medical developments of personalised treatments. There are also various other applications. These include gene therapy, the reprogramming of dysfunctional cells/tissues, ELISA used in disease diagnosis, CRISPR in molecular biology as a gene editing tool as well as gene cloning and therapeutic cloning allowing stem cells to differentiate into any cell and produce relevant biological proteins such as insulin. Knowledge of the genetic makeup of our species, the genetic basis of heritable diseases, and the invention of technology to manipulate and fix mutant genes provides methods to treat diseases. Other reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination in the livestock industry are used for animal production, being able to synchronise pregnancies and bypass issues of fertility. In vitro fertilisation occurring in humans, and artificial insemination in pollinating crops and genetic experiments are also forms of current biotechnology applications. Cloning techniques such as whole organism cloning is used for definite inheritance of desirable traits in livestock animals. Biotechnology also provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of aquaculture, fisheries, as well as the food industry. As seafood increases to become a public demand, scientists have studied the ways that biotechnology can increase the production of marine food products, making aquaculture a growing field of animal research. It allows scientists to identify and combine traits in fish and shellfish to increase productivity and improve quality, involving techniques such as transgenesis and chromosome engineering. Some ethical consideration with biotechnology involves concerns of scientist playing the role of god. Social implications include factors such as both cost and lack of resources. This type of technology is very expensive to research and produce. The modification of DNA to create altered DNA sequences for profit, minimises the value of human and animal life for profit potential. It opens the door to ethical and moral questions. Concerns with aquaculture include concerns with water systems being polluted with excessive nutrients and chemicals being introduced. It can also compromise the native gene pools or species and also threaten the livelihood of fishermen.

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Biodiversity is essential for the functioning and stability of ecosystems. It exists in a rage of scales including genetic, species and ecosystems. Biotechnology in agriculture can cause biodiversity loss through favouring a small number of varieties and losing the characteristics of wild species. Genetically modified plants can adversely affect organisms such as bees as well as soil ecosystems. Genetically modified organism poses a risk through breeding or cross-pollination, with the potential for invasive species to develop in the wild with the genetically modified characteristics. A range of biodiversity conversation methods have become possible with biotechnology. The genetic variation of wild and captive populations can be measured and monitored using genetic technologies. De-extinction techniques could be used in the future in order to return keystone species to at-risk ecosystems. However, ethical questions have been raised concerning using genetic technologies to interfere with evolutionary processes. Biofuels have the potential to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide by providing cleaner energy sources and bioremediation and phytoremediation have the potential to clean up environmental pollution such as mercury deposits in soil.

Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research which aims to be increasingly interdisciplinary, combining engineering principles with biological tools. It includes molecular biology, genetics, biophysics, computer engineering and evolutionary biology – all coming together that aim to use fundamental biological systems with new tools. The biomedical application xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of cells, tissues or organs from one donor species to human. Another future direction includes designer babies. Designer babies refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been selected or altered, often to include a particular gene or to remove genes associated with disease. It poses unethical concerns as it will allow scientists to design babies as well as their features in unnatural ways and may involve artificial wombs and synthesised zygotes, eliminated the need for men and women, overturning gender as a social structure. Additionally, genetic modification of animals’ sample grafts is also a developing field in biotechnology, allowing animals to be disguised to reduce the likelihood of rejection by the human body and will hence a medical breakthrough for organ donor needs. Similarly, despite the advances in cancer diagnosis and treatments, it is still the second leading cause of death in the world. Recent biotechnological advances have increased researcher’s knowledge of molecular events of cancer and have created new hopes in early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Using biotechnology methods, molecular errors can be determined, and appropriate treatments can be selected.

Therefore, the field of biotechnology is a large growing factor influencing and affecting the earths biodiversity. It provides breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, use less and cleaner energy, and have safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes. However, it holds various ethical and social implications and concerns which may affect the earths future environment. It is a growing field which involves medical, animal and aquaculture and introduces future direction such as designer babies and synthetic biology. Hence biotechnology processes and various techniques will overall affect the earths biodiversity.



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How Biotechnology Affects The Earths Biodiversity. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
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