Tuesday, 28 April 2009


The power of biotechnology is no longer fantasy. Biotechnology—the use of technologies based on living systems to develop commercial processes and products—now includes the techniques of recombinant DNA, gene transfer, embryo manipulation and transfer, plant regeneration, cell culture, monoclonal antibodies, and bioprocess engineering.

Using these techniques, we have begun to transform ideas into practical applications. For instance, scientists have learned to genetically alter certain crops to increase their tolerance to certainherbicides. Biotechnology has also been used to develop safer vaccines against viral and bacterial diseases such as pseudorabies, enteric colibacillosis (scours), and foot-and-mouth disease. Yet we have barely scratched the surface of the many potential benefits the tools of biotechnology will bring.

Biotechnology offers new ideas and techniques applicable to agriculture. It offers tools to develop a better understanding of living systems, of our environment, and of ourselves. Yet continued advances will take a serious commitment of talent and funds. Biotechnology offers tremendous potential for improving crop production, animal agriculture, and bioprocessing.

It can provide scientists with new approaches to develop higher yielding and more nutritious crop varieties, improve resistance to diseases and adverse conditions, or reduce the need for fertilizers and other expensive agricultural chemicals. In animal agriculture, its greatest immediate potential lies in therapeutics and vaccines for disease control. Bioprocessing—the use of living systems or their components to create useful products—offers opportunities to manufacture new products and foods, treat and use wastes, and use renewable resources for fuel. Biotechnology could also improve forestry and its products, fiber crops, and chemical feed stocks.