Biotechnology is essentially the product of interaction between the science of biology and technology. The products of biotechnology are going to have a major impact on the quality of human life, productivity, trade and economics in the world. Already biotechnology is being used in the areas of diagnosis, prevention and cure of diseases, in the production of new and cheaper biochemical products e.g. pharmaceutical drugs, in enhanced production of new food resources, in environmental protection and energy conservation.
Biotechnology is as old as human civilization and has been an integral part of the human life. Many scientists use the term old or traditional biotechnology to the natural processes that have been used since many centuries to produce beer, wine, curd, cheese and many other foods. The new or modern biotechnology includes all the genetic manipulations, cell fusion techniques and the improvements made in the old biotechnological processes.
The term biotechnology was introduced in 1917 by Karl Ereky, a Hungarian Engineer. He used the sugar beets as the source of food for large scale production of pigs. Ereky defined biotechnology as “all lines of work by which products are produced from raw materials with the aid of living things”.
The multidisciplinary character of biotechnology makes it rather difficult to define biotechnology. However there are several definitions available.
Biotechnology is “the integrated use of biochemistry, microbiology, and engineering sciences in order to achieve technological (industrial) application of the capabilities of microorganisms, cultured tissue cells and parts thereof”.(European Federation of Biotechnology)
Biotechnology is “the application of biological organisms, system or processes to manufacturing and service industries”.(British Biotechnologists)
Biotechnology is “a technology using biological phenomena for copying and manufacturing various kinds of useful substances”.(Japanese Biotechnologists)
Biotechnology is defined as “the controlled use of biological agents, such as microorganisms or cellular components, for beneficial use”. (US National Science Foundation).
Biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and service. (The Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 1981)
The application of biochemistry, biology, microbiology and chemical engineering to industrial process and products and on environment.(International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), 1981).
A new definition after combining all aspects of biotechnology/genetic engineering was given by Smith in 1996- The formation of new combinations of heritable material by the insertion of nucleic acid molecules produced by whatever means outside the cell, into any virus, bacterial plasmid or other vector system so as to allow their incorporation into a host organism in which they do not naturally occur but in which they are capable of continued propagation.