The term biotechnology refers to the use of scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, to improve or modify plants, animals, and microorganisms. In its most basic forms, biotechnology has been in use for millennia. For example, Middle Easterners who domesticated and bred deer, antelope, and sheep as early as 18,000 B.C.E.; Egyptians who made wine in

4000 B.C.E.; and Louis Pasteur, who developed pasteurization in 1861, all used biotechnology. In recent years, however, food biotechnology has become synonymous with the terms genetically engineered foods and genetically modified organism (GMO).

Traditional biotechnology uses techniques such as crossbreeding, fermentation, and enzymatic treatments to produce desired changes in plants, animals, and foods. Crossbreeding plants or animals involves the selective passage of desirable genes from one generation to another. Microbial fermentation is used in making wine and other alcoholic beverages, yogurt, and many cheeses and breads. Using enzymes as food additives is another traditional form of biotechnology. For example, papain, an enzyme obtained from papaya fruit, is used to tenderize meat and clarify beverages.

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