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The term ‘biotechnology’ is derived from the fusion of biology and technology. It utilizes the biological agents along with its components for generating useful products for mankind. The area covered under this is very vast and the techniques involved are highly divergent

Biotechnology consists of “the controlled use of biological agents such as micro-organism or cellular components, for beneficial use.”

-U.S. National Science Foundation


a)      Food and Drink

b)      Treatment of waste

c)      Genetic Engineering

d)     Medical Products/pharmaceuticals

e)      Mining

f)       Fuel.

A.    Food & Drink

Biotechnology has great applications in the development of different kinds of food and beverages. It helps in improving the quality of food, producing fermented food, preservation of food.

Food includes meat (from healthy animals), poultry, eggs, fruits and vegetables, fermented food that includes, idli, dosa, pickles, yoghurt (Curd, Dahi), buttermilk.

Drink includes milk, fruit juice alcoholic beverages (wine, beer).

Specific Objectives

After studying this unit, the students will be able to

  • describe the concept of biotechnology
  • describe biotechnology processes that gives product for human use
  • describe biotechnology processes that provide services to humans
  • visit a traditional (indigenous) industrial facility.
  • Describe an industrial visit.


Fermented Foods

A variety of foods are produced by fermentation mainly in Asia and Africa. Natural growth of certain microbes in some cases on food improved their flavor, texture and nutritional value.

Advantages of Fermented Foods

  1. Improved flavor.
  2. Elimination of undesirable flavors.
  3. Improvement in the texture of food.
  4. Enhanced nutritional value.

Increased digestibility.
Cheese Production

It involves the three main steps

i.            coagulum formation

ii.            separation of curd from whey

iii.            ripening of cheese.

Fig. 53.1. Schematic representation of various steps in cheese production.

Use of Biotechnology in Dairy Industry, Fruit Juice and Brewing Industry.

Improved quality of milk is produced now-a-days. Different ways of preserving the milk are available like pasteurization of milk.

Enzymes are used in fruit juices to reduce the viscosity, cloudiness, increase in juice yield, enhanced flavor, similarly enzymes are utilized in preparing alcoholic beverages.


B. Treatment of Waste

Any product, by product or residue that cannot be used profitably is called, as waste. A waste product is regarded as a pollutant when it damages the environment.

Wastes may be (i) biological (ii) chemical or iii) physical in nature.

Human activities have increased by many orders the amount of wastes and have also generated a very wide variety of novel wastes and pollutants.

The aim of biotechnology is to develop such Processes and products, which minimize the damage to the environment. In doing so it shall be providing compatibility with a high quality of life.

The wastes may be biodegradable, recalcitrant or a mixture of both. Some recalcitrant components of wastes like heavy metals, some man-made organic compounds etc., may interfere with biodegradation process by inhibiting micro-organism growth.

The various approaches to waste treatment may be grouped into the following five categories:

i.            biofilters (gases)

ii.            landfills (solids)

iii.           burning or incineration (solids)

iv.           aerobic digestion (liquid)

v.           anaerobic digestion (liquid).

Contributions of Biotechnology to Waste Treatment and Environmental Management 

Biotechnology has made several contributions to waste treatment and environmental management The various categories are summarized below:

  • Technologies for degradation and conversion of readily biodegradable wastes.
  • Cleaner technologies of production which generate less number of pollutants and much less pollution.
  • Safer products which are far less polluting.
  • Sensitive and rapid detection technique for a variety of pollutants.

C. Genetic Engineering

DNA or gene cloning is taken to include both the development of recombinant DNA as well as their cloning in a suitable host.

A clone consists of a sexual progeny of a single individual or cell while the process/technique of producing a clone is called as cloning. As a result all the individuals of a done have the same genetic constitution, which is also identical with that of the individual from which the clone was derived. It shows that, the genomes present in members of a single clone are also identical.

The gene or DNA cloning produces large number of copies of the gene or DNA being cloned. Similarly, the term recombinant DNA technology is used as a synonym for DNA or gene cloning. A rather popular term for these activities is Genetic Engineering.

Steps in Gene Cloning

The entire procedure of gene cloning or recombinant DNA technology may be classified into the following six steps:

i.            Production and isolation of DNA fragments to be cloned

ii.            Insertion of isolated gene in a suitable vector to obtain recombinant DNA.

iii.           Introduction of recombinant DNA into a suitable organism or cell called as host (transformation).

iv.           Selection of the transformed host cells and identification of the clone containing the desired gene.

v.            Expression of introduced gene in the host.

vi.            Where needed, transfer and expression of the gene another organism

The recombinant DNA molecules produced have one of three objectives:

  1. To obtain a large number of copies of specific DNA fragments.
  2. To recover large quantities of the protein produced by the concerned gene.
  3. To integrate the gene in question into the chromosome of a target organism where it expresses itself.

To achieve all this, the DNA segments are integrated into an autonomously replicating DNA molecule called as vector.

So, all the steps concerned with transformation of a suitable host with recombinant DNA and cloning of the transformed cells is called DNA cloning or gene cloning.

D. Medical Products/Pharmaceuticals

Biotechnology contributes a lot in healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector that can be grouped as follows:

  1. Disease prevention
  2. Disease detection
  3. Therapeutic agents
  4. Correction of genetic disease
  5. Fertility control
  6. Forensic medicine.

Prevention of disease is most desirable, most convenient and highly effective approach to health which can be achieved by vaccination or immunisation using biological products/preparations called as vaccines.

Disease Treatment

Treatment of disease utilizes a wide variety of preparations of both biological or abiological origins.

Products from Non-recombinant Organisms

Therapeutic agent from non-recombinant organisms may originate from the following systems.

i.            Micro-organisms

ii.            Plant tissue cultures

iii.            Animal cell cultures.

Product from Recombinant Organism

Genetic engineering has enabled the production of large number of recombinant proteins. Genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology is used in micro-organisms, cultured animal cells and more recently in plants.

Genetically engineered micro-organisms are used in the production of following products.

i.      Human insulin (humulin).

ii.      Human- growth hormone (somato statin).

iii.      Interferons

iv.      Growth factors

v.        Monoclonal antibodies

ii.        Artificial tissues/organs

iii.            Therapeutic oligonucleotides.


Disease Diagnosis

It includes:

  1. Microscopic examination.
  2. Culture of the specimen.
  3. Immunological assays for specific antigens present on the surface of pathogens.
  4. Detection and measurement of pathogen specific antibodies produced by the patient in response to attack by pathogen.

E.     Mining 

Biotechnology also contributes in the process of mining. Microbes can be employed to recover valuable metals from low grade ores and also from dilute solutions for which the conventional metallurgical processes are uneconomical and are generally polluting.

In 1947, it. was discovered that the bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans induces leaching of copper sulphate from the ores. Other species of bacteria. For example: Thiobacillus thiooxidans,. Thiobacillus acidophilus and Thiobacillus arganoparus were also discovered to have similar capabilities although they are of lesser importance.

These bacteria require extremely low pH for optimum growth and activity as well as derive their energy needs by oxidizing metal sulphides metals like copper, zinc and iron are recovered by this method.

Another bacterium Leptospirillum ferrooxidans oxidizes ferrous ions and is also involved in microbial ore leaching. Microbial are leaching consists of the processes involving bacteria, mainly T. ferrooxidans that leads to leaching of metal sulphates from low grade ores containing insoluble metal sulphides.

F. Fuels

The use of biological agents (or their components) for the purpose of generating energy is known fuel bio- technology. Some sources of energy e.g., biomass and sunlight are convenient to be used as fuels. Some more examples are: methane, ethanol, butanol, biodies and hydrogen.

Petroleum, oil or crude oil is pumped out of holes. The crude oil is transported in tankers or pipelines to a refinery, where it is-distilled to separate various types of molecules on the basis of their boiling points. his processing of oil yields various types of fuels for example gases (lowest boiling point), petrol, kerosene, etc.

Useful Features of Biofuels

The biofuels have a number of desirable features, which are briefly summarised below.

  1. Most of the biofuels are derived from biomass, which is renewable, low cost and locally available entailing little or no commitment of foreign exchange.
  2. In general, they lead to relatively low CO2 emission than do fossil fuels.
  3. They do not contribute to environmental pollution due to gases like SO2.
  4. The substrate is often a waste including municiple waste. Use of such materials for biofuel production not only generates a more valuable product from low cost substrate but also helps in cleaning up the environment.