What Is Biotechnology Engineering?

Biotechnology engineering is a field that does not only promise numerous technological possibilities but one that can potentially solve the many problems faced by the world today. Simply referred to as biotechnology, the simplest way to understand biotechnology engineering is to view it as developing technology from biology. To make this point even clearer, it’s best to see this scientific field in this manner: Biotechnology utilizes biological processes both at the cellular and biomolecular levels to come up with technologies and products that seek to make people’s lives better and make the Earth a cleaner and greener place to live in.

Biotechnology has given rise to several branches, with green biotechnology, red biotechnology and white biotechnology being the most common. Green biotechnology refers to biotechnology as it is applied to agriculture. For example, developing a plant to emit its own pesticide reduces the need for spraying pesticides externally. Green biotechnology, however, has its share of controversies because of the potentially detrimental effects of genetically-modified food products. Red biotechnology refers to the application of biotechnology to the field of medicine and healthcare. This includes manipulating genes to come up with a cure for a disease. Another branch of biotechnology is known as white biotechnology. This is biotechnology that has applications in the industrial field, such as using enzymes to destroy pollutants like oil spills.

Biotechnology isn’t really a new field. In fact, products like cheese and the technologies used to preserve milk have been around for thousands of years. Both are products of biotechnology since they are produced by utilizing the biological processes of microorganisms. Biotechnology is also responsible for the introduction of antibiotics in the late 1920s. The mold Penicillium was discovered by Alexander Fleming but without the use of biotechnology to purify the antibiotic compound produced by the mold, penicillin would not have been developed. Indeed, biotechnology goes back many years ago and has been used in agriculture, food production and medicine.

Modern-day biotechnology engineering has become even more useful and relevant because it is used to develop cures for crippling and fatal diseases, conserve energy, save the environment, ensure food sustainability and promote cleaner industrial processes for manufacturing goods. Through biotechnology, vaccines have been developed for diseases that have been deemed untreatable. New medicines that have brought down infection rates and saved lives as well as targeted medicines for life-threatening conditions like cancer have greatly reduced the risk of unwanted side effects.

Through the use of microbes like yeast and enzymes and fermentation processes, chemical manufacturing has been substantially made more efficient and greenhouse gas emissions greatly reduced. The development of biomass waste products as a source of fuel and harnessing the potential of biofuels have resulted to more environment-friendly fuel sources and lesser pollution.

Biotechnology engineering has also contributed to food production because it has developed farming practices that are considered to be environmentally sustainable. For example, it has come up with crops that are more resistant to insects and don’t need many pesticide applications. The result is that of crops with higher yields that don’t require as many inputs as that of traditional agricultural practices. Biotechnology is also responsible for infusing the crops with vitamins and minerals so as to help prevent nutritional deficiencies in consumers. The production of allergen-free food is also one of the results of biotechnology engineering.

Career Spotlight: Biotechnology Engineer

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