The Evolution Of Biotechnology

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Biotechnology; an area that has evolved drastically over time involves the use of biological systems to create a variety of products. This has enabled the ability to precisely manipulate genomes as seen in applications of artificial insemination, gene cloning, recombinant DNA technology to develop transgenic species etc. However, despite serving as a tool to increase the quality of life and overcome previous barriers in agriculture and medicine, the rapid evolution of biotechnology can give rise to a variety of negative social and ethical concerns regarding the irreversible changes made to evolutionary pathways.

Early Biotechnology

Dating all the way back to the 18th century, selective breeding was a crucial cornerstone of early agriculture whereby humans bred animals with a purpose of acquiring favourable characteristics based in the genomes of the parent animals (G. Herrendörfer, 1996). The insightful scientific journal, “Biotechnology in the Realm of History”, details the transition between “ancient biotechnology” to “classical biotechnology”. Many applications of ancient biotechnology drew upon observations rather than proven scientific facts which can be evident through the use of yeast; “one of the oldest microbes that have been exploited by humans for their benefit”, in fermentation processes for example. The movement into classical biotechnology was signified by a period of great advancements such Louis Pasteur’s “Germ Theory of Disease”, which had a cascading effect and led to the development of vaccinations for smallpox and rabies (Verma and Agrahari, 1995).Despite the lack of early concrete scientific understanding, ancient and classical biotechnology were a crucial steppingstone for the development of many modern-day biotechnological applications.

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Agricultural Biotechnology

Transitioning into a period of modern biotechnology enabled significant advancements in agriculture as evidenced by the application of artificial insemination for example whereby frozen sperm can be inserted into the reproductive tract of a female organism in order to induce conception. Stemming off the principles behind selective breeding, as detailed in the scientific journal, “Artificial Insemination History: History and Milestones”, the “worldwide acceptance of artificial insemination”, proves its success as a tool in agriculture despite having the potential to decrease genetic variation as a result of selection bias (Ombelet, 1995). Other examples include the development of transgenic species which involves combining foreign DNA from one species into another in order to create genetically unique organisms such as BT Cotton or Golden Rice (Nickel, 2020). The benefits of such transgenic species can be exemplified in BT Cotton; a genetically modified crop that can produce toxins to kill pests and other insects which can result in outstanding economic benefits to the textile industry for example (Munye, 2014). Such genetic engineering induces concerns over intellectual property and patenting of animals and techniques used to create them (Elisabeth H. Ormandy, 2011) alongside the threat of potential biohacking. In the future this requires a greater degree of social awareness regarding the biological and social impacts of such genetically modified organisms and how biotechnology should actually go.

Medical Biotechnology

Modern biotechnology has also been revolutionary in medical fields since the earlier discovery of vaccinations and antibiotics all the way to precise genome cloning techniques. Though the mass production of antibiotics in the 1920s, particularly penicillin, was a hallmark in combatting a whole range of bacterial infections, it proposed a future of excessive and uncensored use leading to the current antibiotic resistance levels evidenced. In other aspects, although gene cloning techniques are relatively new in society, by using recombinant DNA technology through bacterial plasmids for the production of insulin for example. As exemplified in the scientific article, “Cell Factories for Insulin Production”, scientists can exploit bacterial reproductive systems by using E. coli vectors for example to mass produce insulin in order to manage Type 1 and 2 Diabetes. The projected “increase in insulin sales from $12 billion to $54 billion over the next 20 years” (Baeshen and Sheikh, 1995), outlines its enormous benefits. However, once again, though these applications of medical biotechnology can be used to treat and cure a variety of diseases, certain religious and ethical beliefs can collide with its use.


In conclusion, advancements in biotechnology over time have revolutionised practices in fields of both medicine and agriculture through the development of mechanisms of artificial insemination, transgenesis, gene cloning, antibiotics etc. However, though these applications have both social, economic and health related benefits for farmers and the wider society, the aforementioned ethical ambiguity is a major concern for ongoing future practices. Such rapidly advancing biotechnology also proposes the threat of the larger companies dominating over entrepreneurial farmers/companies by creating monopolies that give them access to potentially practice in an unregulated setting (Carr and Levidow, 2000). In the future, the evolution of biotechnology can only be expected to continue, thus requiring stricter societal re-evaluation of unbounded limits of such biotechnology that can cause irreparable changes to evolution.

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The Evolution Of Biotechnology. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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