BIOTECHNOLOGY(CONTINUED)

HUMAN APPLICATIONS:

Biotechnical methods are now used to produce many proteins for pharmaceutical and other 
specialized purposes. A harmless strain of Escherichia coli bacteria, given a copy of the gene for 
human insulin, can make insulin. As these genetically modified (GM) bacterial cells age, they 
produce human insulin, which can be purified and used to treat diabetes in humans. 
Microorganisms can also be modified to produce digestive enzymes. In the future, these 
microorganisms could be colonized in the intestinal tract of persons with digestive enzyme 
insufficiencies. Products of modern biotechnology include artificial blood vessels from 
collagen tubes coated with a layer of the anticoagulant heparin . 
Gene therapy – altering DNA within cells in an organism to treat or cure a disease – is one of the 
most promising areas of biotechnology research. New genetic therapies are being developed to 
treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, AIDS and cancer . 
DNA fingerprinting is the process of cross matching two strands of DNA. In criminal 
investigations, DNA from samples of hair, bodily fluids or skin at a crime scene are compared 
with those obtained from the suspects. In practice, it has become one of the most powerful and 
widely known applications of biotechnology today. Another process, polymerase chain reaction 
(PCR), is also being used to more quickly and accurately identify the presence of infections such 
as AIDS, Lyme disease and Chlamydia
Paternity determination is possible because a child’s DNA pattern is inherited, half from the 
mother and half from the father. To establish paternity, DNA fingerprints of the mother, child 
and the alleged father are compared. The matching sequences of the mother and the child are 
eliminated from the child’s DNA fingerprint; what remains comes from the biological father. 
These segments are then compared for a match with the DNA fingerprint of the alleged father. 
DNA testing is also used on human fossils to determine how closely related fossil samples are 
from different geographic locations and geologic areas. The results shed light on the history of 
human evolution and the manner in which human ancestors settled different parts of the world.


BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR 21ST CENTURY:

Experts in United States anticipate the world’s population in 2050 to be approximately 8.7 
billion persons. The world’s population is growing, but its surface area is not. Compounding the 
effects of population growth is the fact that most of the earth’s ideal farming land is already 
being utilized. To avoid damaging environmentally sensitive areas, such as rain forests, we need 
to increase crop yields for land currently in use. By increasing crop yields, through the use of 
biotechnology the constant need to clear more land for growing food is reduced. 
Countries in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere are grappling with how to continue feeding a growing 
population. They are also trying to benefit more from their existing resources. Biotechnology 
holds the key to increasing the yield of staple crops by allowing farmers to reap bigger harvests 
from currently cultivated land, while preserving the land’s ability to support continued farming. 
Malnutrition in underdeveloped countries is also being combated with biotechnology. The 
Rockefeller Foundation is sponsoring research on “golden rice”, a crop designed to improve 
nutrition in the developing world. Rice breeders are using biotechnology to build Vitamin A into 
the rice. Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in poor countries. A second phase of the 
project will increase the iron content in rice to combat anemia, which is widespread problem 
among women and children in underdeveloped countries. Golden rice, expected to be for sale in 
Asia in less than five years, will offer dramatic improvements in nutrition and health for millions 
of people, with little additional costs to consumers. 
Similar initiatives using genetic manipulation are aimed at making crops more productive by 
reducing their dependence on pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation, or by increasing their 
resistance to plant diseases . 
Increased crop yield, greater flexibility in growing environments, less use of chemical pesticides 
and improved nutritional content make agricultural biotechnology, quite literally, the future of the world's supply.


CONCERNS ABOUT BIOTECHNOLOGY:
As biotechnology has become widely used, questions and concerns have also been raised. The 
most vocal opposition has come from European countries. One of the main areas of concern is 
the safety of genetically engineered food . 
In assessing the benefits and risks involved in the use of modern biotechnology, there are a series 
of issues to be addressed so that informed decisions can be made. In making value judgments 
about risks and benefits in the use of biotechnology, it is important to distinguish between 
technology-inherent risks and technology-transcending risks. The former includes assessing any 
risks associated with food safety and the behavior of a biotechnology-based product in the 
environment. The latter involve the political and social context in which the technology is used, 
including how these uses may benefit or harm the interests of different groups in society. 
The health effects of foods grown from genetically engineered crop depend on the composition 
of the food itself. Any new product may have either beneficial or occasional harmful effects on 
human health. For example, a biotech-derived food with a higher content of digestible iron is 
likely to have a positive effect if consumed by iron-deficient individuals. Alternatively, the 
transfer of genes from one species to another may also transfer the risk for exposure to allergens. 

These risks are systematically evaluated by FDA and identified prior to commercialization.
Individuals allergic to certain nuts, for example, need to know if genes conveying this trait are 
transferred to other foods such as soybeans. Labeling would be required if such crops were 
available to consumers. 

Among the potential ecological risks identified are increased weediness, due to cross- pollination 
from genetically modified crops spreads to other plants in nearby fields. This may allow the 
spread of traits such as herbicide-resistance to non-target plants that could potentially develop 
into weeds. This ecological risk is assessed when deciding if a plant with a given trait should be 
released into a particular environment, and if so, under what conditions. 
Other potential ecological risks stem from the use of genetically modified corn and cotton with 
insecticidal genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt genes). This may lead to the development of 
resistance to Bt in insect populations exposed to the biotech-derived crop. There also may be 
risks to non-target species, such as birds and butterflies, from the plants with Bt genes. The 
monitoring of these effects of new crops in the environment and implementation of effective risk 
management approaches is an essential component of further research. It is also important to 
keep all risks in perspective by comparing the products of biotechnology and conventional 
agriculture. 
The reduction of biodiversity would represent a technology-transcending risk. Reduced 
biological diversity due to destruction of tropical forests, conversion of land to agriculture, 
overfishing, and the other practices to feed a growing world population is a significant loss far 
more than any potential loss of biodiversity due to biotech-derived crop varieties. Improved 
governance and international support are necessary to limit loss of biodiversity (19). 
What we know from our understanding of science and more than a decade of experience with 
biotech-derived plants is the following (22): There is no evidence that genetic transfers between 
unrelated organisms pose human health concerns that are different from those encountered with 
any new plant or animal variety. The risks associated with biotechnology are the same as those associated with plants and microbes developed by conventional methods.


CONSUMER & FOOD INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES:

Survey research over the past decade shows that biotechnology is not likely to become an 
important issue for most American consumers. Consumers find biotechnology acceptable when 
they believe it offers benefits and it is safe. Surveys have consistently found that a majority of 
American consumers are willing to buy insect-protected food crops developed through 
biotechnology that use fewer chemical pesticides, as well as more nutritious foods. American 
consumers also appreciate the role that biotechnology can play in feeding the world. Research 
shows that European consumers are much less supportive of all biotechnology applications. 
Surveys since 1992 show that relatively few U.S. consumers have heard or read much about 
biotechnology (26). News about the cloned sheep pushed awareness to 50 percent in March 
1997. Surveys in the first three months of 2000 show that awareness has fallen back to just over 
one-third in the United States. Such trends reflect the fact that most people get their information 
about biotechnology from the media. Unfortunately, many consumers also do not understand 
some fundamental principles of biology. European consumer awareness is somewhat higher, but 
knowledge is still low. 
Media coverage in the United States has generally been balanced (which helps account for our 
relatively high levels of acceptance). This is in sharp contrast to the European media, which  
have played upon fear of the unknown. The European media have also tended to accept 
opponents' claims without question. Another issue is that many people no longer have a 
connection to agriculture. In fact, research has shown that many consumers are unaware that all 
foods are derived from plants or animals that already have been genetically modified through 
traditional (but imprecise) breeding methods. 
American consumers look to health professionals and scientific experts for credible information, 
but place relatively little trust in the activists who oppose biotechnology. Research shows that 
acceptance increases significantly when American consumers learn that organizations such as the 
National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have determined that 
biotech-derived foods are safe. In contrast, European consumers express the most trust in those 
groups that oppose biotechnology. They have much less confidence in government, industry, or 
even scientists. American culture is more supportive and rewarding of new technology. 
Europeans tend to view food differently from U.S. consumers. In fact, some Europeans reject all 
American food products. Europeans also want to protect their small farms to maintain open 
space and rural employment. Such forces underlie much of the European anxiety about 
agricultural biotech - especially since it is seen as an "American invention." 
Most of the industry leaders interviewed are quite enthusiastic about the benefits of 
biotechnology -- especially in terms of increased food availability, enhanced nutrition, and 
environmental protection. Most feel that biotechnology has already provided benefits to 
consumers. Almost all recognize that foods developed through biotechnology have already been 
part of consumers' everyday diet. They clearly do not agree with most of the opponents' claims 
and tend to have almost no trust in such groups. 
Their main concerns involve lack of consumer acceptance -- not the safety of the foods. They 
express high levels of confidence in the science and the regulatory process. In fact, almost none 
feel that biotechnology should not be used because of uncertain, potential risks. Most food 
industry leaders do not feel it is necessary to have special labels on biotech-derived foods. They 
express concerns that such labels would be perceived as a warning by consumers. They also 
worried that the need to segregate commodities would pose financial and logistical burdens on 
everyone in the system - including consumers. Food industry leaders recognize a major need to 
educate the public about biotechnology. They look to third parties, such as university and 
government scientists to provide such leadership. 
Research shows that consumers will accept biotech foods if they see a benefit to themselves or 
society and if the price is right. Their responses to foods developed through biotechnology are 
basically the same as for any other food - taste, nutrition, price, safety and convenience are the 
major factors that influence our decisions about which foods to eat. How seeds and food 
ingredients are developed will only be relevant for a relatively small group of concerned, 
consumers. 

The potential for public concerns has led several food companies to change their products to 
avoid biotech-derived ingredients. For example, Gerber Foods received threats from Greenpeace 
because they had determined the company was using biotech-derived food ingredients (mainly 
soy). The company firmly believes that the biotech foods are safe to consume. Gerber agreed to 
drop some of its existing corn and soybean suppliers in favor of ones that can produce crops that 
are not genetically altered. It became an issue that is suddenly confronting other food companies. 
A private manufacturer in California, called Healthy Times Natural Food has switched from 
Canola oil (which sometimes is genetically modified) to safflower oil after facing questions from 
Greenpeace. The controversy is due in part to the fact that the organic industry is using public concern as a tool for marketing their products as free of biotech ingredients.


NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY POLICY:

National governments and international policy making bodies rely on food scientists and others 
to develop innovations that will create marketable food products and increase food supplies. 
Governments also rely on scientific research because they are responsible for setting health and 
safety standards regarding new developments. International organizations can suggest policy 
approaches and help develop international treaties that are ratified by national governments. 
Economic success in the competitive international market demands that food production become 
more efficient and profitable. National governments and international organizations support food 
biotechnology as a means to avoid global food shortages. Many policy making bodies are also 
trying to balance support of the food biotechnology industry with public calls for their 
regulation. Such regulations are necessary to protect public health and safety, to promote 
international trade, conserve natural resources, and account for ethical issues. (15). 
The majority of processed foods on the market contain soy or corn ingredients that come from 
GM plants. To date none have posed a food safety risk. The chief safety concerns are the 
potential to alter nutrient content or introduce allergens. Federal agencies involved in 
biotechnology regulation include the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which evaluates 
agricultural production processes for all foods; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which 
evaluates whole non-animal foods (seafood), food ingredients, and food additives; and the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which evaluates plants with insecticidal properties (7). 
Developers of GM plants and biotech-derived foods are required to consult with FDA prior to 
the commercialization of the product. This consultation procedure entails a science-based safety 
assessment of the product that focuses on the protection of the consumer, developer, and the 
environment. Thus developers, have a strong incentive to cooperate fully with FDA and the other agencies prior to marketing their products.


SUMMARY:
The applications of biotechnology are so broad, and the advantages so compelling, that virtually 
every industry is using this technology. Developments are underway in areas as diverse as 
pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, textiles, aquaculture, forestry, chemicals, household products, 
environmental cleanup, food processing and forensics to name a few. Biotechnology is enabling 
these industries to make new or better products, often with greater speed, efficiency and 
flexibility (1). Biotechnology holds significant promise to the future but certain amount of risk is 
associated with any area. Biotechnology must continue to be carefully regulated so that the 
maximum benefits are received with the least risk. 
Biotechnology is at a crossroads in terms of public acceptance. Many Americans have not yet 
formed a solid opinion on this complex issue. International developments over the next few 
years will certainly have a major influence on the long-term viability of biotechnology. The 
future of the world food supply depends upon how well scientists, government, and the food 
industry are able to communicate with consumers about the benefits and safety of the 
technology. 

Several major initiatives are under way to strengthen the regulatory process and to communicate 
more effectively with consumers. Both the USDA and FDA have opened their regulatory 
systems to outside review and public comment. The biotechnology industry, university scientists 
and others are also conducting educational programs (27). These should further strengthen 
consumer confidence. This partnership among the public and private sectors will support these 
emerging technologies that will prove vital to the U.S. economy and the developing world in the new millennium. Even Europe will soon find the real benefits of biotechnology compelling.




REFERENCES: 
1) North Carolina Biotechnology Center "About Biotech."
http://www.ncbiotech.org/aboutbt/main.cfm

2)  Biotechnology for the 21st

Century: New Horizons. http://www.nal.usda.gov/bic/bio21

3) Backgrounder- Food Biotechnology. http://ificinfo.health.org/backgrnd/BKGR14.htm

4) United States Department of Agriculture “Agricultural Biotechnology Concepts and 
Definitions”. http://www.biotechknowledge.com/showlib.php3?1739

CITED BY Kamal Singh Khadka
Msc Microbiology, TU
Assistant Professor in Pokhara University(PU), Pokhara Prabidhi And Food Science Campus( Previously RE-COST), PNC, LA , NA.
Pokhara,Nepal. 







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