|Posted by Ian on June 22, 2015 at 8:05 AM|
In the public debate about biotechnology in general (and genetically modified food in particular), it has been argued by different parties that biotechnology either will or will not help to reduce hunger and increase food security in developing countries. The aim of this conference is to allow a more detailed and comprehensive discussion of this topic. The aim of this document is to provide some brief background to the subject as well as to mention some of the factors that should be considered in the conference.
Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. )Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering, biomedical engineering, etc.
For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine. The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Karoly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st century, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.
The wide concept of "biotech" or "biotechnology" encompasses a wide range of procedures for modifying living organisms according to human purposes, going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and "improvements" to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. Modern usage also includes genetic engineering as well as cell and tissue culture technologies. The American Chemical Society defines biotechnology as the application of biological organisms, systems, or processes by various industries to learning about the science of life and the improvement of the value of materials and organisms such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and livestock. As per European Federation of Biotechnology, Biotechnology is the integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services. Biotechnology also writes on the pure biological sciences (animal cell culture, biochemistry, cell biology, embryology, genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology). In many instances, it is also dependent on knowledge and methods from outside the sphere of biology including:
Food biotechnology uses what is known about plant science and genetics to improve the food we eat and how it is produced. The tools of food biotechnology include both traditional breeding techniques, such as cross-breeding and more modern methods, which involve using what we know about genes, or instructions for specific traits, to improve the quantity and quality of plant species. Modern food biotechnology allows scientists to move desirable traits from one plant to another, with increased precision and efficiency.
Food biotechnology helps to produce fresher, better-tasting foods. For example, food biotechnology enables the production of fruits and vegetables that ripen on the vine for a better, fresher taste. Several foods have already benefited from biotechnology. The following are a few examples of foods enhanced through biotechnology:
• Tomatoes with delayed ripening traits that have better flavor, remain fresh longer and withstand transport better than traditional tomatoes.
• Soybeans, canola, corn, cotton, and potato plants that are protected from insects, or tolerant of herbicides or both.
• Squash which has been made more resistant to a virus that often kills the vegetable on the vine.
Furthermore, food biotechnology allows farmers to grow more food to help feed the world’s growing population. Insect-and-virus-crop varieties produce hardier plants, leading to higher crop yields.