Food Biotechnology Today Whats It All About

In a nutshell, modern biotechnology refers to using living organisms—plants, animals, and bacteria—to develop new products, not just for food, but also for medical treatment, waste management, and alternative fuels, among others.

Today's food biotechnology started about thirty-five years ago, as scientists learned more about DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), genes, and the genetic code in living things, and applied this knowledge to plant and animal breeding practices. In fact, the latest advances in food biotechnology have spawned a new vocabulary. Popular media may use "genetically modified foods," or "GM foods," to refer to these foods. Other terms, such as "genetic engineering," "gene splicing," "cell culture," and "recombinant DNA," refer to some methods of modern biotechnology. Recombinant DNA is the process of inserting genes from one organism into the genetic code, or DNA, of another. That's how a trait is transferred.

To understand how modern food biotechnology works, think about writing a book on a computer. With a click of your keyboard, you can copy a single quote from one document to another, without merging the two, or you can highlight or delete a single phrase.

Likewise, agricultural scientists can pinpoint specific genes that carry traits they want, such as disease resistance, better nutrient quality, or flavor. Then they can transfer a single gene from one plant or from an unrelated species, such as a bacterium, to another. Or they can extract a certain gene, leaving undesirable traits behind. The latest advances in food biotechnology are

TRADITIONAL PLANT BREEDING DNA is a strand of genes, much like a strand of pearls. Traditional plant breeding combines many genes at once.

TRADITIONAL COMMERCIAL NEW VARIETY DONOR VARIETY (many genes are transferred)

desired gene O desired gene

PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY

Using a plant biotechnology, a single gene may be added to the strand.

VARIETY (many genes are transferred)

desired gene O desired gene

1

Source: American Dietetic Association.

Source: American Dietetic Association.

more efficient, more predictable, and less time-consuming than traditional breeding.

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