Biotechnology is all around us and is already a big part of our lives, providing breakthrough products and technologies to combat disease, reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, and make useful products.
Biotechnology is all around us and is already a big part of our lives, providing breakthrough products and technologies to combat disease, reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, and make useful products. Even though we may not recognize it, we see it every day in our homes and workplaces, and everywhere in between. At its simplest, biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes and puts them to work for us.
The science of biotechnology isn’t easy. Nature does not readily yield her secrets. Still, every day in nearly every country on Earth our brilliant scientists decode a bit more of the language of life. The science continues to astonish and amaze. Today, there are more than 250 biotechnology health care products and vaccines available to patients, many for previously untreatable diseases. More than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming’s impact on the environment. And more than 50 biorefineries are being built across North America to test and refine technologies to produce biofuels and chemicals from renewable biomass, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most of us don’t realize that humans have used biotechnology for literally thousands of years; fermenting beer, aging cheese, and baking bread are just a few examples. These rudimentary forms of biotechnology often relied on fermentation, capitalizing on yeasts and other microorganisms to enhance our food supply and make other lifestyle improvements.
Today, biotechnology continues to help improve the way we live, and it helps us do so more responsibly. In the last 40 years, we have seen many important breakthroughs that enable us to:
harness bacteria and yeasts as nature’s microscopic workhorses;
leverage genetic markers; and
deploy a more sophisticated, systematic use of enzyme-based production processes.
The result is a diverse and nearly endless set of practical biotechnology products helping us live longer and healthier lives, have a more abundant and sustainable food supply, use safer and more efficient industrial manufacturing, and reduce our greenhouse gas footprint.