What is Biotechnology?

"Biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services" (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).(Takeoka GR, et al., eds. 1996)

This broad definition of biotechnology encompasses the use of traditional techniques such as the use of yeasts and bacteria for leavening, brewing, fermentation and culturing yogurt. Selective breeding of plants and animals to create more productive breeds is a form of biotechnology.

The term "biotechnology" for many people refers specifically to the genetic engineering techniques that have been developed in the past two to three decades. These techniques have beneficial applications in medicine, agriculture, food processing, food safety, waste management, and crime detection.

External Links:

Biotechnology - The Future - This is a chart of the many areas of application of biotechnologies.


Prepared Summer 1997 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.