What is biotechnology? It’s a complicated science relating to both biology and technology. But how do they relate? This article demystifies the science!
Biotechnology? It’s neither new nor rocket science!
Most of us don’t know it, but it’s there. Part of our everyday lives. Like Mr. Jourdain, Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme who unknowingly speaks prose, you – yes, you!- rub shoulders with biotechnology every day.
Although the word “biotechnology” didn’t appear in the french langage until 1980*, humans have used biotechnologies for thousands of years. Vinegar? It’s biotechnology! Dairy? It’s biotechnology!
It is a basic principle: biotechnology is when we use microorganisms – meaning microscopic living beings, i.e. yeast – to transform one substance into another:
Wine + specific micro-organisms = vinegar.
Milk + specific micro-organisms = yogurts.
Of all colors
We say biotechnology when, in reality, it makes more sense to say ‘biotechnologies’. Not only because the applications are extremely varied, but also because ‘biotechnologies’ encompasses all the methods and techniques through which microorganisms’ transformative work occurs. Thousands of methods and techniques exist. To make it easier, they are classified into five large families:
- Yellow biotechnologies are applications that degrade matter in an environment. A great example is our Bioremediation line (see the following link http://www.htsbio.com/fr/produits/high-tech) in which micro-organisms “digest” organic matter to clean a polluted and dirty natural environment, such as soil or water, (by hydrocarbons, for example) or to keep it healthy. **
- The beer, bread, cheese and vinegar production processes make up green biotechnologies: these are biotechnologies applied to agronomy and agriculture. Look at a cheese crust under a microscope and observe the billions of microorganisms that strut on the surface: without them, there wouldn’t be cheese!
- Blue biotechnologies use marine Applications? Cosmetics, pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness,…
- In white biotechnologies, chemical components – for example, surfactants – are replaced by micro-organisms. Our ECOWAY maintenance and cleaning products(see the following link: http://www.htsbio.com/fr/ecoway-r-/presentation), exemplify white biotechnology!
- Finally, red biotechnologies are used by the pharmaceutical industry for the production of medicine.
Bacteria can be friendly too….
Without microorganisms, there are no biotechnologies. However, friendly bacteria have received negative press: we “group them all together”. And it is not surprising: we are constantly bombarded with advertising and health messages which order us to eliminate bacteria! A great analogy is to compare bacteria with mushrooms: there are the good mushrooms that are delicious to eat and the bad mushrooms that are poisonous. So it is with bacteria!
Next time you eat yogurt, think about all the “friendly” microorganisms who worked to produce that yogurt! Now, do you “see” bacteria in a different light…?
* Source: historical dictionary of the French language under the direction of Alain Rey
** Find out more: read the article “Biological depollution, what a work site!”