Experiences in Industrialised and Developing Countries
New Horizons in the Economics of Innovation series
Chapter 2: The Development of Biotechnology
Page 15 2— The Development of Biotechnology 2.1— Biotechnology: Definitions The first potential source of misunderstanding faced by most students of modern biotechnology, is defining what they mean by it. More particularly, biotechnology can be taken to mean considerably different things depending on the limitations placed on the scope of the techniques defined as biotechnology. To many people today, the word biotechnology has become associated with mutated genes and the fears raised by such images has resulted in strong public anti biotechnology campaigns in several countries. To others, biotechnology with its abilities, theoretically at least, to produce miraculous new cures, presents a potential which cannot be dismissed easily by environmental groups or by society in general. For most people, however, biotechnology is already ever present in their daily lives when they make bread, cheese, preserve food or quench their thirst with a beer. Because biotechnology remains a composite of different techniques and straddles different scientific and technological disciplines, defining those techniques which together are called biotechnology, remains difficult. One definition calls biotechnology, 'the industrial use of recombinant DNA, cell fusion and novel bioprocessing techniques' (US OTA, 1991). Broader definitions are used by those who wish to include older technologies as biotechnology and include 'any technique that uses living organisms (or parts of organisms) to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific uses' (US OTA, 1991), and 'the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents...
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