The Potential of Biotechnology in Solving Global Challenges

Workshop participants emphasized that developing countries need to build their capacity in all areas of biotechnology. They need to understand and communicate their needs—whether it is enhancing crops to fit existing farming systems or finding ways to deliver vaccines for endemic diseases to poor nations.

Participants also highlighted the importance of involving the public in decision-making structures related to agricultural biotechnology. They found that citizens question whose interests decisions serve when they are made without their participation.

Food Security

Despite decades of progress, food security remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. About 783 million people were dangerously hungry in 2022, and the problem is exacerbated by global conflict, climate change, and poorly performing agricultural markets.

Biotechnology is the study of living cells and the application of that knowledge to develop and produce products like medicines, biofuels, food, and enzymes. It also includes recombinant DNA, which allows for more potent and safer medications that don’t provoke unwanted immune responses.

Humans have been manipulating living things to solve problems and improve their lives for millennia. The foundations for modern biotechnology were laid down in the 1950s when scientists deciphered DNA, a living organism’s hereditary material. DNA consists of sugar, phosphate, and four nitrogenous bases (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) arranged in a specific order called a sequence. These genes contain the instructions to produce proteins, and mutations of a gene can cause a protein sequence to change.

Water Scarcity

Biotechnology is the use of living organisms, cells or molecular analogues to create pharmaceutical, agricultural, environmental, and other products for societal benefit. These technologies are used for combating debilitating diseases, improving industrial manufacturing processes, developing pest-resistant crops and forensic DNA analysis.

It is also being applied to tackle climate change by using genetically modified crops that can withstand extreme weather conditions. The technology can help reduce carbon dioxide levels and provide sustainable energy sources.

However, the reality is that biotechnology cannot solve global challenges like world hunger by itself. According to economists, resolving poverty and malnutrition requires political solutions rather than technological ones. The world’s food supply is plentiful, and the major problem for many poor people is the lack of income to buy nutritious foods. Many countries have invested vast amounts in biotechnology R and D, but the majority of this research has been directed at products with large, secured markets in the First World.

Climate Change

Biotechnology is a complex field that integrates biology, chemistry, and mathematics with engineering, physics, and other disciplines. Scientists use it to create pharmaceutical, agricultural, environmental, and other products that benefit humanity.

Humans have been manipulating living things to improve their lives for millennia. For example, farmers have used selective breeding to produce plants with desirable characteristics since ancient times. In the 18th century, Austrian Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel deciphered the principles of genetic inheritance by studying the traits of pea plants.

In addition, scientists have been able to locate the underlying cause of many inherited diseases. This knowledge enables them to develop recombinant drugs and vaccines that treat these conditions. They also identify the genes that affect a person’s response to medication. This is leading to individualized medicine in which doctors prescribe treatments that match a patient’s unique genetic characteristics.

Insects

Insects are commonly considered pests or disease carriers, but they provide valuable pollination services and produce useful substances, control other insects and act as scavengers. Insects are also valuable objects of study, allowing scientists to elucidate genetics, population biology, and many other biological processes.

Biotechnology can also be used to develop medical countermeasures against emerging infectious diseases such as the coronavirus pandemic and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Scientists have developed cheap diagnostics, repurposed existing antivirals and vaccines, and created new ones. They are also developing gene drives to help eradicate mosquitoes that carry the Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses and other dangerous microorganisms.

Industrial biotechnology uses microorganisms to produce fuel, plastics, chemicals, and other products on a large scale while reducing environmental impacts. This technology can also be applied to repurpose and enhance the performance of plants, animals, and other organisms like bacteria and algae. For example, scientists are working to produce gene-edited bananas that are resistant to heat stress and drought.

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