Chapter 7: Biotechnology
Leonie Marks INTRODUCTION What is Biotechnology? The term ‘biotechnology’ came into widespread usage during the mid 1970s with the advent of a number of scientiﬁc breakthroughs, particularly in the area of genetic engineering (Oakey et al. 1990, p.5). Biotechnology has been deﬁned in many ways, but the deﬁnition by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) remains one of the most relevant and widely used. The OECD deﬁnes biotechnology as the ‘application of scientiﬁc and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services’ (OECD 1989, p. 4). It involves the use of genetic engineering techniques1 to transfer genes which exhibit a desirable trait between diﬀerent living species or organisms – plants, animals and microorganisms (National Research Council 1987, pp.16–17).2 In addition to the use of genetic engineering techniques, the use of tissue culture techniques3 to reproduce organisms in controlled settings, and the use of micro-organisms to produce chemicals of commercial interest may also be included within the remit of biotechnology. This broad deﬁnition remains relevant despite recent breakthroughs. Biotechnology and the ‘Bioeconomy’ After decades of research and development (R&D), the 1990s proved to be the coming-of-age of the ‘life sciences’ or ‘biotechnology’ industry, when R&D activities matured into marketed products. The twenty-ﬁrst century is likely to be an exciting age as new markets emerge from the ‘bioterial’ economy. These market sectors will be based on the initial platform of biotechnology married...
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