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What is Biotechnology: Types, Examples and Applications


Biotechnology is the use of biological systems found in organisms or the use of the living organisms themselves to make technological advances and adapt those technologies to various different fields. These include applications in various fields from agricultural practice to the medical sector. It does not only include applications in fields that involve the living, but any other field where the information obtained from the biological aspect of an organism can be applied.

Biotechnology is particularly vital when it comes to the development of miniscule and chemical tools as many on the tools biotechnology uses exist at the cellular level. In a bid to understand more regarding biotechnology, here are its types, examples and its applications.

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According to Biotechnology Innovation Organization,

“Biotechnology is technology based on biology – biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. We have used the biological processes of microorganisms for more than 6,000 years to make useful food products, such as bread and cheese, and to preserve dairy products.”

Types of Biotechnology

1. Medical Biotechnology

Medical biotechnology is the use of living cells and other cell materials for the purpose of bettering the health of humans. Essentially, it is used for finding cures as well as getting rid of and preventing diseases. The science involved includes the use of these tools for the purpose of research to find different or more efficient ways of maintaining human health, understanding pathogen, and understanding the human cell biology.

Here, the technique is used to produce pharmaceutical drugs as well as other chemicals to combat diseases. It involves the study of bacteria, plant and animal cells to first understand the way they function at a fundamental level.

It heavily involves the study of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) to get to know how to manipulate the genetic makeup of cells to increase the production of beneficial characteristics that humans might find useful such as the production of insulin. The field usually leads to the development of new drugs and treatments, novel to the field.

Examples

Vaccines are chemicals that stimulate the body’s immune system to better fight pathogens when they attack the body. They achieve this by inserting attenuated (weakened) versions of the disease into the body’s bloodstream. This causes the body to react as if it was under attack from the non-attenuated version of the disease. The body combats the weakened pathogens and through the process takes note of the cell structure of the pathogens and has some cell ‘remember’ the disease and store away the information within the body.

When the individual becomes exposed to the actual disease, the body of the individual immediately recognizes it and quickly forms a defense against it since it already has some information on it. This translates to quicker healing and less time being symptomatic.

The attenuated disease pathogens are extracted using biotechnological techniques such as growing the antigenic proteins in genetically engineered crops. An example is the development of an anti-lymphoma vaccine using genetically engineered tobacco plants made to exhibit RNA (A similar chemical to DNA) from malignant (actively cancerous) B-cells.

Strides have been made in the development of antibiotics that combat pathogens for humans. Many plants are grown and genetically engineered to produce the antibodies. The method is more cost effective than using cells or extracting these antibodies from animals as the plants can produce these antibodies in larger quantities.

2. Agricultural Biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology focuses on developing genetically modified plants for the purpose of increasing crop yields or introducing characteristics to those plants that provide them with an advantage growing in regions that place some kind of stress factor on the plant namely weather and pests.

In some of the cases, the practice involves scientists identifying a characteristic, finding the gene that causes it, and then putting that gene within another plant so that it gains that desirable characteristic, making it more durable or having it produce larger yields than it previously did.

Examples

Biotechnology has provided techniques for the creation of crops that express anti pest characteristics naturally, making them very resistant to pests, as opposed to having to keep dusting them and spraying them with pesticides. An example of this would be the fungus Bacillus thuringiensis genes being transferred to crops.

The reason for this is that the fungus produces a protein (Bt) which is very effective against pests such as the European corn borer. The Bt protein is the desired characteristic scientist would like the plants to have and for this reason, they identified the gene causing Bt protein to express in the fungus and transferred it to corn. The corn then produces the protein toxin naturally, lowering the cost of production by eliminating the cost of dusting the crop with pesticide.

  • Plant and Animal Breeding

Selective breeding has been a practice humans have engaged in since farming began. The practice involves choosing the animals with the most desirable characteristics to breed with each other so that the resulting offspring would also express these traits. Desirable characteristics included larger animals, animals more resistant to disease and more domicile animals, all geared to making the process of farming as profitable as possible.

This practice has been transferred to the molecular level with the same purpose. Different traits are selected among the animals and once the genetic markers have been pointed out, animals and plants with those traits are selected and bred for those traits to be transferred. A genomic understanding of those traits is what informs the decisions on whether the desired traits will express or get lost as recessive traits which do not express.

This information provides the basis for making informed decisions enhancing the capability of the scientists to predict the expression of those genes. An example is its use in flower production where traits such as color and smell potency are enhanced.

Applications of Biotechnology

1. Nutrient Supplementation

One of the biggest uses of biotechnology is the infusion of nutrients into food in situations such as aid. Therefore, it provides food with heavy nutrients that are necessary in such situations. An example of this application is the production Golden Rice where the rice is infused with beta-carotene. The rice has Vitamin A, which the body can easily synthesise.

2. Abiotic Stress Resistance

There is actually very little land on earth that is arable with some estimates place it at around 20 percent. With an increase in the world’s population, there is a need for the food sources available to be as effective as possible to produce as much food in as little space as possible. There is also need to have the crops grown to be able to make use of the less arable regions of the world.

This means that there is a need to develop crops that can handle these abiotic stresses such as salinity, drought and frost from cold. In Africa and the Middle East, for instance, where the climate can be unforgiving, the practice has played a significant role in the development of crops that can withstand the prevailing harsh climates.

3. Industrial Biotechnology

The industrial applications of biotechnology range from the production of cellular structures to the production of biological elements for numerous uses. Examples include the creation of new materials in the construction industry, and the manufacture of beer and wine, washing detergents, and personal care products.

4. Strength Fibres

One of the materials with the strongest tensile strength is spider webs. Amongst other materials with the same cross sectional width, spider webs can take more tensional force before breaking than even steel. This silk has created a lot of interest with the possible production of materials made from silk including body armour such as bullet proof jackets. Silk is used because it is stronger than Kevlar (the material most commonly used to make body armour).

Biotechnological techniques have been used to pick the genes found in spiders and their infusion in goats to produce the silk proteins in their milk. With this initiative, it make production easier as goats are much easier to handle compared to spiders and the production of silk via milk also help make the processing and handling much easier compared to handling the actual silk strands.

5. Biofuels

One of the biggest applications of biotechnology is in the energy production sector. With fears over the dwindling oil resources in the world and their related environmental impacts, there is a need to protect the globe’s future by finding alternative environmentally friendly fuel sources. Biotechnology is allowing this to happen with advances such as using corn to produce combustible fuel for running car engines. These fuels are good for the environment as they do not produce the greenhouse gases.

6. Healthcare

Biotechnology is applied in the healthcare sector is the development of pharmaceuticals that have proven problematic to produce though other conventional means because of purity concerns.

Image credit: PDP

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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2017 was the Hottest Year Without an El Niño : UN


The United Nations declared last Thursday that 2017 was the hottest year without an El Niño (i.e. an invasion of warm water into the Pacific ocean’s surface, off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, every 4 to 7 years; and usually affects both local and regional climate). The UN report was based on a consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of five leading international datasets.

It was said that of all the 18 hottest years experienced in the world, 17 of them were experienced this century. This may be attributed to the rising industrial civilization and the accompanying emission of greenhouse gases. The average surface temperature of the Earth due to these gases last year was about 1.1°C more than the usual average surface temperature.

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This figure is in line with the “1.5°C” barrier placed by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to avoid dangerous climate conditions. President Donald Trump’s administration seems to be a threat to the Paris climate agreement. Seeing he stands for anti-environmental policies: publicly denies climate change and wants to promote the use of fossil fuels in the US, plans to invalidate the Clean Power Plan that limits power plant emissions and intends to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark climate accord.

On a normal scale, Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2017 ranked as the second warmest, since it became possible to have global estimates in 1880, according to a NASA analysis. Global temperatures in 2016 were the highest recorded so far; but this was influenced by El Niño, which is considered the warm phase of El Niño Southern Oscillation. Thus, without an El Niño event in 2016, 2017 would be the warmest year ever recorded, (NASA).

While the Earth warmed all over, weather dynamics do affect regional weather patterns. Therefore, various locations experience different amounts of warming. GISS Director, Gavin Schmidt, said to NASA, “Despite colder than average temperatures in any one part of the world, temperatures over the planet as a whole continue the rapid warming trend we’ve seen over the last 40 years.” The Arctic regions (which continued to experience a loss of sea ice in 2017) experience the strongest warming trends in the world, about two times the normal rate.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists gathered a separate, independent analysis that shows a strong agreement with NASA’s report. However, the report concluded that 2017 was the third warmest year in their record. NASA (National aeronautics and space administration) and NOAA use different methods to analyze global temperatures, which played a role in the minor difference in rankings.

Both reports agreed that the five warmest years on record have all taken place since 2010. However, the two reports claim differently that 2017 was the second and third hottest year respectively. The NASA report reads: “NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period, and different methods to analyze Earth’s polar regions and global temperatures.”

Taalas expressed that the warmth in 2017 was accompanied by extreme weather conditions in many countries around the world.

“The United States of America had its most expensive year ever in terms of weather and climate disasters, whilst other countries saw their development slowed or reversed by tropical cyclones, floods and drought,” he said. NOAA noted earlier this month that weather and climate-related disasters cost a whooping $306 billion in 2017.

The NOAA agency listed several noteworthy events, including the wildfires in the west, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record. This year, the string of devastating hurricanes were also very expensive. Hurricane Harvey costs about $125 billion. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total costs of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively.

NASA scientists use measurements from 6,300 weather stations to track global temperatures. These stations include — Antarctic research stations; and ship- and buoy-based observations of sea-surface temperatures.

These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers interference that could skew the conclusions. The global average temperature is deduced from these calculations, from deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980, according to NASA. As weather stations keep changing locations, and methods of measurement keep evolving, there are uncertainties in the specific annual interpretations of the global mean temperature.

Therefore, NASA estimates that 2017’s global mean temperature change is accurate within 0.1°F, with a 95 percent confidence level. NASA is the agency that sets the 2017 temperature data and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculations. Hence, the report obtained from them as to 2017 being the hottest year without an El Niño, is very reliable.

Reference:

Ecowatch

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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2017 Weather and Climate Damages in the United States Totaled $306 Billion


Are you wondering when big organizations and politicians are going to pay vital attention to climate change? Well, hope has not yet been found, and this is due to selfish interests, fancy speeches, marches, etc. Certainly, the attention needed will surface when the financial cost associated with climate change becomes so extreme for brokers to take care of. We all know the popular saying “money makes the world go round” well, losing lots of cash will bring these big players to their senses. Since lots of money have been lost in 2017, well, the day that we will count so much loss is getting much closer by the day.

No doubts, 2017 was regarded as one of the hottest years in modern revolution and in that year, it has cost us so much. However, due to a recent news from the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is part of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). According to an annual report, it has been confirmed that the U.S has witnessed losses that exceed $2 billion, thus, totaling about $306 billion.

Hurricane

Furthermore, a statement by the federal agency has stated drastic events that have occurred in the United State plus the wildfires in the west. It is important to note that all of these events have cost about $ 18 billion which means it has tripled in cost from the aforementioned annual wildfire record in the United States.

It is also needful to know that the number of hurricanes that occurred in 2017 has also cost not only the United States but other places that it had occurred. One type of hurricane called “Hurricane Harvey” cost the U.S more than $ 100 billion. Other hurricanes like Maria and Irma had also cost the U.S $90 billion and $50 billion separately.

It is also worth knowing that selfish individuals in the Congress in the U.S discarded tax deductions for the casualties lost in this disasters for personal interests.

From the stable of Property Casualty 360 late last year, it has been affirmed that brokers may lose more than $190 billion in 2017. Due to this news, many of these brokers began to adjust their rates for them to cover the increased risks, several companies began to send their $1000 to beg with Congress to act fast. As you can see, President Trump has already backed off from acting against climate change. The effects of our actions may come so soon then we have expected if things aren’t done the right way.

As we all know, 2005 was another year that had cost the U.S much money, due to the drastic events that occurred. Losses from Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Rita will never be forgotten.

Certain natural disasters like storms, drought, wildfires, cyclones that occurred last year didn’t cost the U.S financially, they also caused lots of causalities where recorded. According to NOAA NCEI Climate, it has been reported that approximately $16 billion disasters were recorded in 2017; the U.S also witnessed more than 200 weather and climate disasters since 1980, thus, the losses totaled approximately $1.5 trillion.

2017 was recorded the third warmest year since annual records were taken since 1895. Also, according to these reports, 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the average temperature of the United States last year, thus increasing by 2.6 degrees more than the normal average.

Another report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service has recently placed 2017 as the second-warmest year.

“Certain concerns have been going up due to the fact that sixteen out of seventeen warmest years have been in this century” this statement was made by the head of Copernicus. Lots of scientific agreement has been made due to the increase in greenhouse emissions, but most of them have been futile due to some selfish interest in the government.

Nevertheless, the NOAA report had briefly stated the increased costs of climate and weather catastrophes in spite of the cynicism and the indifference made by the government under the leadership of President Donald Trump toward the Paris accord to combat climate change from the list of threats that affect humanity.

“I was elected to represent the citizen of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” said President Trump after withdrawing the U.S support for the Paris accord on climate change. The president also stated that the Paris accord “confines the U.S, but empowers top polluting counties in the world”.

Trump’s administration is quite different from the previous one and it has unveiled a new strategy that focuses more on protecting the homeland and increasing the influence of the US In an ever competitive world.

However, a document that stated the national security of Trump’s administration has shown that it will show no support to reduce the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

“The United States government is central to counter an energy agenda that is detrimental to the U.S economy and energy security interest” the document declared.

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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Scientists Warn of Permanent drought for 25% of the Earth by 2050, If Paris Goals Are Not Reached


There are lots of research on climate change and these studies have stated the detrimental effects of man-made gases that are released into the atmosphere daily. However, a recent study on the ever-growing effects of global climate inaction has stated that almost every part of the earth could end up in a long-lasting state of drought if its temperature rises or warms up to 2ºC by 2050.

However, it is important to note that a top researcher in this study named Manoj Joshi has this to say, “The research envisages that desertification would increase about 20% or more on the land surface if the global temperature reaches 2ºC”. Nevertheless, this new study has been published in the journal, Nature.

desert-drought-dehydrated-clay-soil

Today, climate change has been as a result of man-made activities, and researchers have linked and stated that the spread of extreme droughts has been as a result of human activities for many years. It has also been known that the only way to limit these effects is by avoiding the conditions that could result in climate change to a temperature of about 1.5ºC.

Furthermore, Dr. SU-Jong Jeong, a scientist in China’s University of Science and Technology has also concluded that “the temperature of the earth has warmed up by 1ºC but to keep global warming by 1.5ºC, is to decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which may lead to the circumvention of aridification in many parts of the earth” this includes America, Africa, Australia, and Asia (which has almost 20% of the world’s population)

“It is important to know that aridification poses a serious risk to the earth because of its threat to vital areas such as biodiversity, farming, water quality, and so on”. Lead researcher and author at the Southern University and Technology in Shenzen, China, Chang-Eui Park, stated this in a recent news release. He has also indicated that aridification can also result in an increase in more droughts and wildfires in many parts of the world – related to those seen intense in California and its environs.

The recent research also concluded and showed that decreasing global warming to a 1.5ºC rise would prevent the spread of drought, and it is important to note that the rates of drought across the world today has already increased beyond human expectations. This is due to the fact that the temperature of the Earth has sporadically risen to 1ºC in global average temperature.

Scientists have taken a critical look at the probable occurrence of aridification for different levels of global warming, containing a 1.5ºC and 2ºC rise in the average temperature of the earth. Although, the Paris climate accord has been with lots of critics from environmentalists and scientists as not being adequate to the tasks of combating the problems associated with climate change which is already imposing lots of havoc across the world today. Nevertheless, the main objective of the Paris agreement is to decrease global warming to 2ºC by the end of the century. However, if we are to achieve this feat, “prompt measures” have to be taken to restrain the emergence of aridification.

The issue associated with the Paris agreement is that the U.S (which is the second largest emitter of carbon in the world) recently withdrew its support for the Paris accord under the governance of President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, President Trump has instead, moved to other directions stated by other scientists. Together with this, Trump has also increased his actions to gut adequate measures that have been put to place for environmental protection by the former administration during his first year in office, and it is vital to know that Trump is showing no signs of limiting his actions.

Furthermore, Trump has also stated last week of his enthusiasm of a warmer planet, when he tweeted that the United States “could use a little bit of that good old global warning” to fight the cold weather that is taking over other states in the east. In addition to this, he has shown that he is unaware of the discrepancy between weather and climate. Trump’s move to withdraw the U.S from the Paris climate accord has been criticized by lots of ecologists as “stupid and reckless”

The reckless decision has categorized Trump’s tactic to the environment, not only to the United States alone but also to the world – throughout his first year as the President of the United States. However, Trump’s tweet last week sparked lots of comments from environmentalists and analysts, but this is not the first tweet made by the American President on cold weather to suggest that the world should embrace climate crisis.

Moreover, David Sirota of the International Business Times has said that the president tweet should be preserved forever so that generations to come can know the reason why the American government didn’t take adequate measures to combat climate change.

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him. Follow him on Facebook here.

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These “Super Beans” Could Solve Hunger Issues in Africa


In Uganda, more than one million new refugees from South Sudan have been arriving in recent times, escaping their nation, overrun by war and horrors. With barely enough to feed themselves in poorer parts of the country, farmers have been struggling to feed their own people in impoverished areas, and the country had been working to solve the increased strain given the influx of immigrants.

Up in the north of the country, Richard Opio, at 35 years old, has been working on tending and farming a solution to these problems. Everything comes down to small, pink, red-striped beans that he plants, cares for, and harvests – an effort that began at harvesting two sacks and has now grown to six.

beans

These beans are “super beans” which mature and grow quickly and yield a large amount of crop, with just 50 kg of them creating a crop of 2,000 kg, and are one more step towards researchers’ goals of creating an even higher level of “super bean”. These small, seemingly simple beans are being promoted throughout Uganda by both its government and experts on agriculture as a way to help curb the difficulties in hunger-prone areas of the country.

The beans are not made by high end technology, and are not genetically modified, as one may expect. Instead, they are created and harvested through genetic selection of a traditional and conventional variety, according to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. They are carefully bred in order to be resistant towards droughts and are fighting starvation every day.

There are only two so-called bean “gene banks” in the entire continent of Africa, which the United Nation’s Development Program predicts will face severe difficulties as global climate continues to change – and this is in spite of Africa only producing less than 4% of all the greenhouse gases released on earth. These gene banks are located in separate regions: one is in Malawi, in the south of Africa, and one is just off the city of Kampala, which is where Richard Opio’s beans were from. Over 30 countries in Africa have partners to these banks, and receive beans from them regularly in order to better develop and breed them for their own countries’ personal climates and conditions.

The bean gene bank in Uganda houses approximately 4,000 different kinds of beans, some of which were found and sourced from Rwanda next-door before 1994, when mass genocide hit the unfortunate country, causing the loss of around 800,000 lives and, in the process, killing many bean species in the country.

The National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda ensures that all beans they receive and handle go through a multitude of rigorous tests so that they are certain to be able to solve the issues that they were designed to help address and fix, even in a wide variety of climates and weathers.

The beans used by Opio are known as NABE15 and have become increasingly popular and successful, to the point where the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has hired a large-scale commercial producer in order to create and supply a whopping 21 tons of the beans for the million or so refugees from South Sudan, in order to give them crops to plant that can keep them from going hungry.

These efforts are supported by numerous aid workers, who hope that this will lead to refugees relying less on handouts, which face shortages of funds daily. With any luck, these beans may encourage refugees to plant their own food and can complement the food handouts given by aid programs.

The beans grow, mature, and cook very quickly, and they have a sweetness that many locals enjoy. They also have a high tolerance against a variety of diseases and pests, according to the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance’s director, Dr. Robin Buruchara.

While the beans certainly aren’t perfect, these beans are a stepping stone to perfecting the crop. Agricultural workers are hoping to create a bean entirely pest and drought tolerant, as well as quick to mature and being high in micronutrients, and are working towards it every single day. Thanks to modern technological advancements, the ability to genetically edit the structure and components of these beans allows for much potential, and it may not be too long before the possibility of a “super, super bean” comes into play and can be produced.

In the meantime, the beans that Opio has been planting have been spreading in popularity throughout the country. A neighbor of Opio’s purchased a sample of the beans when he saw how well Opio’s were doing, and since then, the beans have begun to be traded, bought, and sold everywhere in the country, and even across the South Sudan border, where they work to fight hunger and famine.

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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