visit the overview of biotechnology 

   Overview and Brief History                                     

   Ann Murphy and Judy Perrella. Woodrow Wilson Foundation Biology
   Institute. "A Further Look at Biotechnology." Princeton, NJ: The
   Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 1993.

   Biotechnology seems to be leading a sudden new biological revolution.
   It has brought us to the brink of a world of "engineered" products
   that are based in the natural world rather than on chemical and
   industrial processes.

    Biotechnology has been described as "Janus-faced." This
           implies that there are two sides. On one, techniques allow DNA
   to be manipulated to move genes from one organism to another. On the
   other, it involves relatively new technologies whose consequences are
   untested and should be met with caution. The term "biotechnology" was
   coined in 1919 by Karl Ereky, an Hungarian engineer. At that time, the
   term meant all the lines of work by which products are produced from
   raw materials with the aid of living organisms. Ereky envisioned a
   biochemical age similar to the stone and iron ages.

   A common misconception among teachers is the thought that      
   biotechnology includes only DNA and genetic engineering. To
   keep students abreast of current knowledge, teachers sometimes have
   emphasized the techniques of DNA science as the "end-and-all" of
   biotechnology. This trend has also led to a misunderstanding in the
   general population. Biotechnology is NOT new. Man has been
   manipulating living things to solve problems and improve his way of
   life for millennia. Early agriculture concentrated on producing food.
   Plants and animals were selectively bred, and microorganisms were used
   to make food items such as beverages, cheese, and bread.

   The late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth
   century saw the advent of vaccinations, crop rotation involving
   leguminous crops, and animal drawn machinery. The end of the
   nineteenth century was a milestone of biology. Microorganisms were
   discovered, Mendel's work on genetics was accomplished, and institutes
   for investigating fermentation and other microbial processes were
   established by Koch, Pasteur, and Lister.

   Biotechnology at the beginning of the twentieth century began to bring
   industry and agriculture together. During World War I, fermentation
   processes were developed that produced acetone from starch and paint
   solvents for the rapidly growing automobile industry. Work in the
   1930s was geared toward using surplus agricultural products to supply
   industry instead of imports or petrochemicals. The advent of World War
   II brought the manufacture of penicillin. The biotechnical focus moved
   to pharmaceuticals. The "cold war" years were dominated by work with
   microorganisms in preparation for biological warfare, as well as
   antibiotics and fermentation processes.

   Biotechnology is currently being used in many areas including
   agriculture, bioremediation, food processing, and energy production.
   DNA fingerprinting is becoming a common practice in forensics. Similar
   techniques were used recently to identify the bones of the last Czar
   of Russia and several members of his family. Production of insulin and
   other medicines is accomplished through cloning of vectors that now
   carry the chosen gene. Immunoassays are used not only in medicine for
   drug level and pregnancy testing, but also by farmers to aid in
   detection of unsafe levels of pesticides, herbicides, and toxins on
   crops and in animal products. These assays also provide rapid field
   tests for industrial chemicals in ground water, sediment, and soil. In
   agriculture, genetic engineering is being used to produce plants that
   are resistant to insects, weeds, and plant diseases.

   A current agricultural controversy involves the tomato. A recent
   article in the New Yorker magazine compared the discovery of the
   edible tomato that came about by early biotechnology with the new
   "Flavr-Savr" tomato brought about through modern techniques. In the
   very near future, you will be given the opportunity to bite into the
   Flavr-Savr tomato, the first food created by the use of recombinant
   DNA technology ever to go on sale.

   What will you think as you raise the tomato to your mouth? Will you
   hesitate? This moment may be for you as it was for Robert Gibbon
   Johnson in 1820 on the steps of the courthouse in Salem, New Jersey.
   Prior to this moment, the tomato was widely believed to be poisonous.
   As a large crowd watched, Johnson consumed two tomatoes and changed
   forever the human-tomato relationship. Since that time, man has sought
   to produce the supermarket tomato with that "backyard flavor."
   Americans also want that tomato available year-round.

   New biotechnological techniques have permitted scientists to
   manipulate desired traits. Prior to the advancement of the methods of
   recombinant DNA, scientists were limited to the techniques of their
   time - cross-pollination, selective breeding, pesticides, and
   herbicides. Today's biotechnology has its "roots" in chemistry,
   physics, and biology . The explosion in techniques has resulted in
   three major branches of biotechnology: genetic engineering, diagnostic
   techniques, and cell/tissue techniques.