Biotechnology and it’s applications

Biotechnology and it’s applications

This article deals with ‘Biotechnology and it’s applications – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here



What is Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the use of biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products intended to improve the quality of human life.



Genetic engineering

  • Term was given in 1951 by Jack Williamson
  • Direct human manipulation of the organism’s genome
  • Involves introduction of the foreign DNA into the organism of  interest
  • Organism thus produced is known as GMO or Transgenic organism
1973 First was Genetically modified bacteria
1974 Genetically modified Mice
1982 Insulin producing Bacteria was commercialised
1994 Genetically modified food is sold since 1994



Type of GMOs

Transgenic Genetic material from the other species is added to the host
Cisgenic Genetic material from the same species or one that can be naturally bred with


Types of Biotechnology

Blue Marine & Aquatic  applications of the biotechnology
Green Applied to  agricultural processes. Eg. selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation
Red Applied to  medical processes
White Industrial biotechnology


Applications of biotechnology


Pharmacogenomics This technology helps in analysing how genetic makeup affects an individual’s response to drugs.


Regenerative Medicine/ Stem Cells Stem cell therapy: It is also known as regenerative medicine which promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. 
Making Pharma products
Bio pharmaceuticals
  • Produce large biological molecules such as proteins which target the underlying pathways of the disease
  • Deal with the targets inaccessible to the traditional medicines
Using genetically altered E. coli to produce synthetic insulin
  • Was previously extracted from pancreas of Abattoir Animals like cattle /pigs .
  • Now large quantity can be produced + pure + low cost


Genetic testing
  • Direct examination of the DNA molecule itself
  • Scan patient’s DNA for mutated sequences


Gene therapy May be used for treating or even curing genetic & acquired diseases like Cancer & AIDS by using normal genes to supplement or replace defective genes or bolster normal function like immunity


Indian examples Affordable vaccines for variety of diseases eg

      • Rotavac: for Rotavirus Diarrhea.
      • Elisa kit to detect Japanese encephalitis in humans .
      • Typbar-TCV: Typhoid vaccine by Bharat Biotech.


  • Increase crop yield


  • Reduced dependence on the fertilisers ,pesticides and other agrochemical
Bt gene Produces protein with insecticidal properties


  • Reduced vulnerability to the environmental stresses. Eg
Gene : At-DBF2
    • Extracted from plant Arabidopsis Thaliana
    • This gene when inserted to tobacco & tomato cells make them more resistant to stresses like salt, drought , cold etc
Samba Mahsuri
    • Hybrid Rice Variety
    • Blight Resistance + high in protien
Vivek 9
    • High protien maize which can be grown in hilly areas


  • Bio-fortified crops with higher quantity of vitamins and micronutrients to fight malnutrition eg Golden Rice.
        • Golden Rice contains beta carotene genes which help in synthesis of vitamin A


  • Improved taste, texture or appearance of the food
        • Can slow down the process of spoilage so that fruit can ripen longer on the plant & then transported to consumer with a still reasonable shelf life




Side Topic : Fortification of food vs Biofortification of food

  • Fortification of food is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (such as iron, iodine, zinc) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food
  • Union and state governments (Rajasthan, MP, Haryana, WB and Himachal Pradesh) are promoting it to fight malnutrition
  • 2017: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released a set of standards and a logo (+F logo)  for all fortified packaged food


Note : Earliest example of Fortification is Salt iodization started in early 1920s in  Switzerland and USA & later in whole world

  • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology (genetic engg).
  • It aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.



Bioremediation and Biodegradation

  • It is a waste management technique
  • Eg : Oil Zappers convert oil in oil spills  to harmless CO2 & H2O


Animal husbandry

  • Cloning  allows for genetic replication of selected animals
  • Can be used to make improved breeds using recombinant DNA which  alters genetic makeup of animal


Industrial Applications 

  • To develop efficient techniques to reduce the environmental impact of industrial processes
  • Using Biocatalysts , same chemical can be produced more economically & more environment friendly



  • These are kind of fuels that are derived from living organisms such as plants and their byproducts, microbes or animal waste. Two most common bio-fuels are
        • Bio-ethanol produced by fermentation of sugars
        • Bio-diesel obtained from trans-esterification of oil obtained from plants like jatropha


Face Climate Change

  • Make crops that can withstand stress



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