The Advantages Of Biotechnology
Biotechnology can be defined as the exploitation of living systems and biological processes to develop tools for technological use. Applications may be used in areas such as industry (e.g. food, energy), medicine, environmental sciences, and computational design. The term ‘biotechnology’ was introduced in 1919 by a Hungarian scientist, Karl Ereky, to refer in general to processes where raw materials were converted into useful products, such as on industrial farms.
Most biotechnological developments in early times were based on products available in nature to improve living conditions and survival, targeting the basic human need for food, shelter and clothing. Ancient biotechnology was in practice for thousands of years without a full understanding of the biological and biochemical processes involved. Practices included the use of yeast to make bread, as well as beer and wine fermentation. Foods such as yoghurt and cheese were produced using bacterial cultures.
Classical biotechnology emerged with the contributions of scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Gregor Mendel. Pasteur discovered that fermentation was not a chemical process but a biological one. Mendel introduced the idea of genetic information being transferred from one generation to the next, a concept central to biotechnology today. By the end of the 19th century, cell products such as enzymes were in use. The first antibiotic was discovered in 1928 and antibiotics were used for the first time as medicine in 1941. Biotechnology was moving from the farmyard and the garden into the laboratory.
Medical biotechnology is the use of living cells and cell materials to research and produce pharmaceutical and diagnostic products that help treat and prevent human diseases. An example of a medical biotechnology is stem cell research which is the zone of research that studies the properties of stem cells and their latent capacity use in medication. As stem cells are the source of all tissues, understanding their properties helps in our comprehension of the healthy and diseased body’s advancement and homeostasis. Research conducted on embryonic and somatic adult cells in mice furthers the understanding of stem cells, how they work and their limitations. The application of stem cells in mice results in a reflection of how human stem cells may be used to repair damaged tissues and cells after injuries or diseases. Stem cells derived from the umbilical cords of mice can be cultured and differentiated into the desired cell. Once grown in a large enough quantity these cells can be transplanted into an organism with the disease or injury. These new cells replace the old damaged cells and promote regrowth through mitosis of functioning cells and tissues. Embryonic stem cell (ESC) cell replacement therapy can be used to help degenerative diseases in humans based off the work done on mice.
Advantages of mice embryonic stem cell research include genetic similarities. On average around 85% of protein coding regions in both Humans and Mice is common. This makes mice the ideal model to use in scientific research regarding stem cells, as the results from the testing will be similar to what is expected in humans. Another advantage can be the rate of reproduction. Mice can begin to reproduce after 10 weeks from being born. They can also reproduce once every three weeks, producing on average 6-8 offspring per litter. This means that several generations of the model can be observed much quickly. Disadvantages of mice embryonic stem cell research include a shortened life-span. The lifespan of a mouse ranges from 1-4 years (often dependant on the breed) this restricts the range of research that can be conducted on one generation. Mice are not suited to long term experiments and creates barriers to what can be done and what can be achieved. Another disadvantage is the differences in physiology. Mice are significantly smaller in size to humans. This effects the results from testing as although genetically there are similarities, the way in which diseases present themselves in the organism are different. As a result researches are turning to other models such as chimpanzees to conduct more accurate experiments.
Social implications are the likely consequences on society or a part of society and its organisation as a result from certain actions or events. The research and application of mice embryonic stem cell research has positive social implications as it is of benefit to society as a whole. The data, information, cures and treatments that can be made through this research can aid society in the fight against diseases and disorders. By curing certain diseases, countless lives could be saved and cured. Ethical implications are the likely consequences or effect of certain actions or events in relation to the moral principles of the circumstance. An ethical implication of mice embryonic stem cell research is the treatment of mice and whether the rights of the organism have been breached. Human embryonic stem cell research is prohibited globally as it would be deemed as unethical and morally unjust. However to use mice instead could be seen as equally bad and unethical. The destruction of a mouse embryo is still the death of an organism.
Applications of agricultural biotechnology include improving plant and animal production by increasing yield, nutritional value and resistance to disease. Agricultural biotechnology aims to enhance the quality of, and economic returns from, commercial crops by using reproductive technology and gene technology. An example of agricultural biotechnology includes the use of genetically engineered crops, such as golden rice, to address hunger in poor developing countries and work towards eradicating starvation. Golden Rice is needed in many countries to benefit society by providing a source of Vitamin A. Every year and estimated 1 million children die from a weak immune system. Common illnesses can affect populations and cause epidemics in that area. By consuming beta-carotene individuals can produce vitamin A and improve their immune system, preventing illness.
Advantages of Golden Rice include the benefit of nutritional value consisting of high source of Vitamin A. Golden Rice produces beta-carotene which is then converted to Vitamin A. VAD (vitamin A deficiency affects populations all over the world and is the most common cause of childhood blindness. As beta-carotene is only produced in animal products it is not accessible to all populations. Golden Rice provides a reliable source of Vitamin A in substantial quantities. Another advantage is that Golden Rice is shared around equally between countries. Golden Rice is planned to be distributed to countries that need it with no restrictions on what certain farmers can do with the crop. This means that farmers can save and replant seeds, sell the grain itself and sell the seeds. This is fair for farmers and helps to spread the use and consumption while helping them economically. Disadvantages of Golden Rice includes the reduction of biodiversity. By producing one type of rice continuously, long term damage to the biodiversity of rice could occur. By planting, growing and consuming one main type of rice over an extended period of time reduces the abundance of other types of rice such as white or brown. Overtime less common rice types will be lost to the production of this GMO and certain types could be lost. Another disadvantage is that GMO’s (Genetically Modified Foods) are still controversial. Despite certain organizations best efforts there is still social doubt when Genetically Modified Foods are offered. Certain cultures and populations may reject the idea of these super foods for several different reasons. A main factor being cultural beliefs. Some individuals reject the idea of consuming modified foods as they believe it may cause harm to them. This however could be rectified by informing individuals on what the product is and how it was developed.
The social implications of Golden Rice are positive in its idea as it can help battle the Vitamin A pandemic. Its idea and concept is already greatly supported by humanitarians and some nation leaders as it provides a salvation to an issue causing the premature deaths of many. If Golden Rice continues to be researched and is spread across the world it can greatly benefit society and humanity. An ethical implication of the use of Golden Rice stems from the views on genetically modified foods. Individuals may find that changing the genetic composition of foods for consumption is wrong and will further reject the idea of consuming such products. This can be due to the fact that individuals believe that tampering with organisms in this manner could affect the environment further. This could further dissuade government and organizations to cease the support of the production of GMO’s causing social implications.
Overall I personally support biotechnology and its uses in the modern world. Earth is constantly changing and humanity must adapt with it to ensure our survival. Biotechnology can be created for positive and helpful uses. An example of this is seen in stem cell research. The use of adult stem cells have been used and experimented on and soon, functioning organs will be viable to those in need. This form of biotechnology can help save lives and improve the well being of many. Another example of the benefits of biotechnology involves the production of antibiotics. Bacteria, fungi and moulds can be engineered and cultured to help cure and control certain diseases and conditions. This positively affects society by providing an ailment and cure for diseases again saving lives. Bio-technologies must be refined and approved before being shared with the public however it can be used to help save countless populations of people.
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