A Technology of Hope
Biotechnology in one form or another has flourished since prehistoric times. When the first human beings realized that they could plant their own crops and breed their own animals, they learned to use biotechnology. The discovery that fruit juices fermented into wine, or that milk could be converted into cheese or yogurt began the study of biotechnology. When the first bakers found that they could make a soft, spongy tad rather than a firm, thin cracker, they were acting as fledgling biotechnologists. The first animal breeders, realizing that different physical traits could be either magnified or lost by mating appropriate pairs of animals, engaged in the manipulations of biotechnology. The term "biotechnology" refers to the use of living organisms or their products to modify human health and the human environment. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as:
Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make I or modify products or processes for specific use.
The marked increase in our understanding of these organisms and their cell products gains us the ability to control the many functions of various cells and organisms. Using the techniques of gene splicing and recombinant IDNA technology, we can now actually combine the genetic elements of two or more living cells. Functioning lengths of DNA can be taken from one organism and placed into the cells of another organism. As a result, for example, we can cause bacterial cells to produce human molecules. Cows can produce more milk for the same amount of feed. And we can synthesize therapeutic molecules that have never before existed.