The advantages and disadvantages of biotechnology

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Biotechnology involves the use of living organisms in science and technology to develop new products. Brewing beer and wine and making bread and cheese require microorganisms such as yeast, and so are examples of biotechnology.

However, some people have concerns about the research and development involved in biotechnology, such as fears about health and environmental effects.

More food

The World Food Programme -- the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger -- regularly warns about food shortages in many parts of the world. Arguably the main advantage of biotechnology is the development of cheaper and more plentiful food crops, by the combination of plant genes to create hardier plants with increased yield. However, the general public are alarmed by genetically modified food. According to, 59 percent of people have concerns.

New products

Another key advantage of biotechnology is the development of new products. Fuel, chemicals and medicines are fields where biotechnology creates new patents. Biotechnology also creates employment for scientists and subsidiary personnel. However, if the demand for new products outstrips the capacity of testing regimes to report fully on the long-term effects of these products, we may all be exposed to greater environmental risk.

The advance of science

Science is a discipline that perpetuates the search for new discoveries. Biotechnology offers new avenues of research for scientists, thereby offering further opportunities for mankind to understand the nature of the world. One disadvantage of this is that the science of biotechnology often becomes highly technical, beyond the understanding of most people. When scientists speak a language that only they understand, legislators and the public are unable to monitor their activities.

Animal testing

Many individuals and organisations feel that animal testing, especially in combination with any practices that cause animals stress or harm, is morally repugnant and unnecessary. "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," better known as PETA, claims that more than 100 million animals every year suffer this way. Molecular biologists counter that traditional science and biotechnology may involve animal testing, but biotechnology offers opportunities for testing on cells in culture rather than on living animals.