What Does Biotechnology Mean?

Biotechnology is any technological application that makes use of biological systems, living organisms and its components to create products and other technological systems with the aim of advancing the human condition. This advancement may come in the form of increased food production, medicinal breakthroughs or health improvement as result of new knowledge and products. The term is an obvious combination of the word bio (life) and technology.


Techopedia Explains Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a big concept and encompasses many industries, but with a common emphasis on the use of living organisms to reach whatever goal its branch may have. It aims to develop technologies and procedures to modify living organisms to suit human purposes, with examples going back to the earliest ancestors of man having discovered domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and their improvements based on artificial selection and hybridization.

The biggest areas of biotechnology are agriculture and the pharmaceutical and medical sciences. Throughout the history of agriculture, farmers have altered the genetics of their animals and crops in order to get a more bountiful harvest and create hardier varieties that can survive in different climates. The fermentation of various foodstuffs such as beer and wine, pickles and cheese are also one of the earliest forms of biotechnology. Because of a fascination with microbes like yeast for various food preparation processes such as the brewing of beer and leavening of bread, this led to Louis Pasteur’s work in 1857, gifting humanity with a better understanding of microbial life and fermentation, as well as the development of antibiotics.

Some branches of biotechnology:

  • Green biotechnology – This branch is concerned with agricultural processes such as creating new plant or crop varieties with bigger yields and with resistance to pests or specific weather conditions.
  • Blue biotechnology – This branch is concerned with marine and aquatic applications.
  • Red biotechnology – This branch is concerned with medical and health processes such as production of antibiotics and engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
  • White biotechnology – This branch is also known as industrial biotechnology, where biotechnology is applied to designing or having organisms produce specific chemicals that can be used for industrial purposes such as environmentally safe cleaning agents or those that can break down and neutralize hazardous chemicals and pollutants.
  • Bioinformatics – This branch is concerned with
    addressing biological problems through computational techniques, making rapid
    organization of large quantities of biological data and producing analysis for
    the data. It is about conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then trying
    to understand and organize the information on a large scale.

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.