Biotechnology is a multidisciplinary frontier area of science. The whole world today is so much shaken up with this word that it has become a strong belief that this is “the field, which will give solution to our “any problem.” “Biotechnology, no surprise, is then variously described as “the last revolution of the current century”, “the third wave in the evolution of human ambitions”.
Biotechnology can be defined as “The applications of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of material by biological agents to provide goods and services”. It involves the latest developments in the sciences of biology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, electronics, computers, physics, optics, photography, microscopy, instrumentation and practically most branches in engineering and technology. Biotechnology has the technical breadth and depth to change the industrial community of the 21st century because of its potentials:
1. to give products which were never available before;
2. to give products that are currently in short supply;
3. to give new methods which will reduce costs substantially;
4. to give safer, better quality products;
5. to give products which will use cheap raw materials which are plentily available but not used.
Today, the world is facing four major problems: malnutrition, diseases, energy scarcity and its high cost and environmental pollution. To overcome these problems has become the objective of biotechnology development. Biotechnology is applied today most vigorously in following major fields:
1. Medicine and pharmaceuticals.
2. Animal health, food industry.
3. Industrial (chemical manufacturing).
5. Environmental protection.
Medical applications of biotechnology are really exciting and progress has been impressively fast. Many diverse aspects of disease prevention, diagnosis and cure are dealt with very effectively, by biotechnology. The areas in which biotechnology is working hard are:
1. Diseases caused by infective agents, including virus.
2. Diseases due to imbalance in body’s natural chemistry.
3. Hereditary disorders.
4. Tumour and cancer therapy.
5. Organ transplantation (tissue culture technique).
Following are the newer approaches and some achievements of biotechnology in the field of medicine:
1. New and more powerful antibiotics.
2. Cheaper steroid drugs and hormones.
3. Improved more effective and safer vaccines for disease
4. DNA probe and monoclonal antibiotics in diagnostic kits.
5. Hormones, enzymes, interferon and some body proteins in therapy.
6. Monoclonal antibodies to reduce rejections in transplantation and to select a prQper donor.
7. Liposomes, monoclonal antibodies for effective drug delivery, drug targeting.
8. Gene replacement therapy in hereditary genetic disorders.
he aim of biotechnology to the food industry is to produce food in abundance, with lowest cost, higher nutritive value, with greater variety, with more appealing in taste, from cheaper sources and food preservation over long periods.
Use of biotechnology in industries mainly in fermentation processes for products like vitamins, antibiotics, steroids, enzymes, alcohols, glycerol, organic acid and some new chemicals like plastics, polyacrylamide etc.
Environmental biotechnology is now a fast emerging frontier area of science. The techniques and methodologies adopted in municipal and industrial effluent treatment, water purification, composting and biogas fermentations were the earlier examples of environmental biotechnology.
With the recent advances in molecular biotechnology development of new generation of fermentation and processing plants and skills available for introducing genetically engineered microbes, biotechnology has now opened new and unlimited vistas for protection of environment, water, land and air as well as faster regeneration of biomass to provide essential fuel and fodder.
The environmental biotechnological techniques and methods can be very effectively and usefully employed for pollution control and cleaning of major river systems. They can be very effective in supplementing the efforts being undertaken in programmes like the “Ganga Action Plan”.
The application of environmental biotechnology for pollution control in major rivers can be in the areas of:
1. primary and secondary treatment of waste water, sewage, municipal waste and industrial effluents before the discharge into the stream/river;
2. bioconversion of municipal and rural waste into biological fertilizers through composting;
3. weed and hyacinth control;
4. nitrogen (ammonia-nitrate) removal from fishery effluent;
5. conversion of selected biomass species to organic acids and alcohols;
6. bioconversion of agricultural residues and waste into high value nutritious animal feed; and
7. preparation of anaerobic digester feed by blending biomass, sewage and fishery sludges.