What is biotechnology? It sounds like the plot point of the movie Gattaca. Maybe sci-fi images of cloned creatures marching in a line come to mind. The word biotechnology might also conjure up images of scientists in white coats plotting the destruction of the world. It's actually not as complex and intimidating as it sounds. Biotechnology is all over the place. Don't worry, there's no need to run for cover.
Biotechnology has been occurring for thousands of years. In agriculture, plants have been bred to produce larger yields. Animals have been specifically bred to produce more meat, more milk, or perhaps more wool. Wool is especially important for all the sweater-wearing penguins of the world.
Now that we know biotechnology is all up in our cookies and milk, it's safe to say it covers a broad range of techniques. Some of them are relatively straightforward, like picking plants that naturally produce the most seeds for next year's harvest. Others involve molecular biology and biochemical techniques to manipulate genes.
In this chapter, we will peek inside the biotechnology toolbox and look at some of the most common techniques used by scientists. We will cover DNA technology, gene expression, and function. Then we will get into how organisms are cloned. Most of these techniques have been developed to serve some sort of purpose outside of science. Gasp. We will play a little CSI and look at how biotechnology is used in forensics and medical applications.
Although some aspects of biotechnology have been around much longer than you, other aspects are cutting edge. The field is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so as we learn more and more about science.