Biotechnology is the broad area of science that involves living systems and organisms to develop or manufacture products, or “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to manufacture or modify products or processes for specific uses.” Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the fields of molecular biology, bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biofabrication, molecular engineering, etc.
For thousands of years, humanity has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production and medicine. The term is believed to have been largely coined in 1919 by the Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology and the development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.
A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology, for example:
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes possible the rapid organization and analysis of biological data.
The field can also be called computational biology and can be defined as “conceptualize biology in terms of molecules and then apply computer techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale.”
Bioinformatics plays a key role in several areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.
Blue biotechnology is a term that has been used to describe the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.
Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants through micropropagation. Another example is the design of transgenic plants to grow in specific environments in the presence of chemical products.One hope is that green biotechnology will produce greener solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, which puts an end to the need for external application of pesticides.
An example of this would be Bt corn. If green biotechnology products like this are ultimately more respectful of the environment, it is a subject of considerable debate.
Red biotechnology is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the design of organisms to produce antibiotics and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the design of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the use of enzymes as industrial catalysts to produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous chemicals / contaminants.
White biotechnology tends to consume fewer resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods.