Written by Omar Faid.
What is biotechnology?
Biotechnology or biotech is a man-made way of taking advantage of living organisms, their components, their by-product, and other biological systems to help in the manufacturing or production of a specific product or develop a process that can be utilized for special industrial applications and use-cases.
The applications of biotech span a wide range of industries and use-cases, utilizing various techniques to accomplish goals ranging from creating medication to food production. Brewing and baking bread are examples of processes that fall within the concept of biotechnology. Such traditional processes usually utilize the living organisms in their natural form.
Nowadays, biotechnology will generally involve a more advanced modification of the biological system or organism. Biotechnology is being utilized in not just pharmaceutical research and the food industry but also in fuel production, animal breeding for biodiversity, chemical production and even for strategic military applications such as bioweapons and hazardous materials which can be very dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. This is the reason why scientists and companies who work with and on this kind of technology follow strict protocols specifically regarding testing and analysis, ensuring that products will be used in morally correct and ethical ways and seek only improvement upon life and the environment.
Biotech can be utilized in different ways. That’s why biotech companies are split into different categories:
- Grey Biotech
- Blue Biotech
- White Biotech
- Green Biotech
- Yellow Biotech
- Red Biotech
Each category offers solutions to different problems because as mentioned above, biotechnology spans a wide range of industries and real-world applications.
Grey biotechnology includes all biotechnological processes for the treatment of for example, drinking water, cleaning of wastewater, remediation of contaminated soils and so on. It is the practice of introducing plants and microorganisms into an environment to essentially work as a filter to remove carbons, metals and other pollutants or contaminants with the sole purpose to enhance biodiversity.
Blue biotechnology includes all processes that take advantage of marine animals. Particularly microorganisms that are found at great ocean depths and that live under extreme conditions. Microorganisms are a possible source of biological substances which can be utilized in the tech industry or for technical processes.
White biotechnology is used in the production of enzymes for our detergents and cleaning agents. Other ingredients in our detergents and cleaning agents (for example biosurfactants and citric acid) are also manufactured using white biotechnology.
This branch of biotechnology deals with specifically targeted modifications in the genome of plants. With the help of genetic engineering, higher quality food and useful plants are grown. For example, grain types are made less sensitive to weather influences and pests.
Yellow biotechnology, also called “insect biotechnology”, is the use of active genomes of an insect in agriculture and medicine.
Red biotechnology, also known as “medical biotechnology”, comprises the areas of biotechnology that deal with the development of therapeutic and diagnostic processes which is basically everything from biochips for medical diagnostics to personalized medicine to drug production and gene therapy.