Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates various scientific disciplines. It involves applying biological processes in producing products and services - with both industrial and medical uses for applications of this science.
Humans have used genetic engineering and other biotech processes throughout history to produce new products or improve existing ones. Examples include yeast that's used to make bread, and biofuels produced from algae.
Biotechnology dates back to ancient Egypt when people used fermentation of grapes into wine using microbes that broke down grape skins into sugar for fermentation. The result was an easier-to-digest beverage with greater sweetness.
In the 19th century, Gregor Mendel cracked open the genetic code of plants and helped create the field of genetics as an academic discipline. He discovered that traits like color, shape and size could be passed along from generation to generation in organisms.
Biotechnology today can play an indispensable role in human and environmental wellbeing. It helps prevent disease, save both money and time on healthcare services and treatments, increase crop yields without increasing pesticide usage, enhance nutrition in crops and livestock and produce foods free from allergens and toxins.
Nature conservation benefits also come in the form of reduced water requirements for agriculture and more efficient utilization of nutrients by animals in feed. Furthermore, research shows it reduces nutrient runoff into lakes and streams and can meet global food and land demands more easily.
Biotechnology depends on many different elements, from government policies and international cooperation, to public opinion polls and debate among its many proponents. Some biotech developments can have unexpected repercussions and could potentially harm human and animal health in unexpected ways.
Recently, this controversy manifested itself with the coronavirus pandemic that spread around the world and raised questions of whether biotechnology research had either positive or negative consequences on society.
Potential side effects of biotechnology research can be potentially hazardous, including creating deadly pathogens which could inflict harm upon people or alter the natural balance of an ecosystem. Therefore, it is crucial that international guidelines regarding safe usage of biotechnology be strictly observed.
Biotechnology poses another threat when used by malicious groups or states for clandestine purposes, such as weapon development or accessing sensitive information. This is particularly the case in countries with lax regulations or where not enough experts exist to monitor lab activities.
So it is imperative that we create an international network of organizations to protect us against these threats. One such network is Australia Group, an initiative which works to reduce bioweapon proliferation by implementing stringent export controls on substances considered precursors to such weapons. All nations should adopt similar safeguards and continuously update them when necessary.