Biotechnology has been delivering cutting-edge innovations to humanity year after year. How advanced biotechnology may fare over several years may be difficult to predict. However, it can be visualized if we draw its similarity to something ubiquitous around us. Computer games.
To draw an illustration, we can compare the graphics and gameplay of FIFA Soccer 96 (1995) with FIFA 16 (2015). If we can achieve that level of clarity and precision in just twenty years, imagine what advanced biotechnology may accomplish in the next twenty years.
Before we start talking about all the boons advanced biotechnology has brought into the lives of humankind, let’s get into a brief introduction to the subject.
What Is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is the application of biological processes found in living things or the use of living things to enhance technology and apply it to other sectors. Additionally, biotechnology businesses create treatments or procedures (such as DNA fingerprinting).
Since many of the tools biotechnology uses exist at the cellular level, biotechnology is especially instrumental when developing minuscule and chemical tools. Though its use in medicine and pharmaceuticals is what makes biotechnology most well-known, the science is also used in other fields, including genetics, food production, and the creation of biofuels.
For almost 6,000 years, we have produced valuable foods like bread and cheese and preserved dairy products using the biological activities of microbes.
Several disciplines of contemporary biotechnology are distinguished, typically by colour. Green for environmental and agricultural biotechnology, Red for medicinal biotechnology. Industrial biotechnology is represented by white, marine biotechnology by blue, and food biotechnology by yellow.
For years, biotechnology has only been used in agriculture to increase crop output and gather more harvests. There has been a rise in biotechnology-made goods recently.
How Has Biotechnology Transformed Human Lives?
Before we talk about advanced biotechnology, we must address those biotechnologies first to find solutions to real problems around us. Let’s start with the list.
The field of medicine is an ever-evolving one. Since new viruses, their variants, and diseases come up yearly, and so do their antidotes. Biotechnology, in this field, has been an asset over the last thirty years.
Biosensors detect blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and body temperature and provide information in numbers using electrical activity. From patients with severe breathing problems in the ICCU to mundane issues such as checking daily blood pressure, biosensors have established themselves at the forefront of medical science.
The question is: where do we go from here? Let’s start with breast milk. Biotechnology has made severe breakthroughs when it comes to food. Among them, one of the primary needs for a baby less than six months is breast milk. Sure, packaged products help the baby sustain essential nutrients, but they aren’t complete. Biotechnology has an answer to that.
Ligament tears and broken bones can be repaired by biotechnology in today’s world. However, it cannot be feasible for all due to several reasons. One, it is quite expensive. Two, it is still not a part of medical practice to the lack of technology in various parts of the world. Third. There are not many doctors who know how to administer this tactic.
With advanced biotechnology in limb repair, we might see a world aiming for things such as zero disability in the next hundred years.
Just like X-Ray manages to outline the deepest parts of our body vis-à-vis bones, biosensors to read myriad details about our heart, lungs, intestines, and other organs would become increasingly common, thereby helping the commoner learn more complexities about medical science – just as how mobile phones engage older citizens in learning more intricacies about applications!
Biotechnology has aided severely in food technology.
Animal cruelty is an issue that is often swept under the carpet. Partly because of our habits and partly because we do have a hatred for ethnocentric people. Plant-based chicken sausages, nuggets, pork, and lamb would be increasingly common.
It’s not just about food “choices.” Sometimes, it’s about compulsion. With the growing obesity and cardiovascular diseases worldwide, plant-based meat would emerge as the new future. There is one drawback, as of now. Plant-based food may clone the taste.
Gaps such as not being able to provide as much protein as authentic non-veg food are already being addressed n. Inin the future, we may see a world with an end to animal violence and cruelty while being provided with the right nutrients for our bodies.
Not only food alternatives, but we can also envisage an entire gamut of new food that can be created in the future, all thanks to the ever-increasing food technology. Imagine something like pizza with the nutrient value of a heavy dish.
Biotechnology can be a boon for a nation’s security while yielding fatal results on the battlefield for an enemy nation. If there is a new weapon for peach in tomorrow’s world apart from cyber-attacks, it should be bio-engineered viruses.
Viruses have killed well over 50-75 million people since the dawn of humanity. Various theories, some unproven and some conspiratorial, emerged during the time of the coronavirus outbreak. One of them claimed that the coronavirus was a cryptic weapon designated to be tested on “enemy nations.”
If a nation has to cause a dangerous outbreak without second thoughts, advanced biotechnology would surely be the way to go. Imagine the carnage a single virus would manifest with substantial gene-editing that makes it immune to several antidotes available in the marketplace.
Bio-energy in cow-dung gas plants using manure is quite prevalent in rural India, and even urban pockets of India have started applying such technologies. If we were to replace non-renewable energy like coal or nuclear, bio-energy would not stand a chance as the topmost fuel producer compared to water, wind, or solar power.
As per a study by Muggeridge et al., 2014 titled “Recovery Rates, Enhanced Oil Recovery, and Technological Limits,” 60 to 80% of oil in geological deposits left by the oil industry is non-recoverable. With biotechnology, these problems can also be dealt with. However, with more success in science and technology in the forthcoming decades, we will see advanced biotechnology in the energy industry increase tenfold yearly.
When applying advanced biotechnology in the energy industry, we may face some harsh, realistic questions. Nations that use vast quantities of non-renewable sources of energy do so since they generate much more revenue. Switch to renewable sources, and these revenues would diminish, rendering losses. In such a situation, we must opt for biofuels to create jobs in the local economy.
According to the paper by Al Kasim et al., 2013 titled “Corruption and Reduced Oil Production: An Additional Resource Curse Factor,” bio-energy produces significantly more jobs than wind, water, or solar energy. As we can see, not only would numerous small-scale jobs be generated, this entire sector would probably suck in employment from other forms of renewable energy.
Gene editing has been carried on in various animals such as sheep, monkeys, etc. Using such genetic engineering, plants of several types have also been created to deliver the maximum results, such as blooming more flowers or having a larger shape. The possibilities to which we can use gene editing are endless.
Application of somatic nuclear cell transfer has already been underway in humans. We are yet to see whether it ushers us into a new tomorrow or yet another Black Mirror episode from Netflix! However, there are fears of a looming threat as, not too long ago, we had a series of failed lobotomies down the medical history.
Facial recognition techniques, fingerprints, and even reading neurons and brain patterns already exist in this world.
Many science fiction materials have manifested with the addition of augmented reality using biotechnology. In the novel “A Tiny Reason to Live” by author Shreyan Laha, we learn about an arena called the Xedrem Filter. The Xedrem Filter was a virtual reality world where a person could enter and talk to a biologically recreated clone of their deceased, the recreation of which retained every memory of who they were before he died.
To have that kind of precision is a general far-fetched idea. However, with advancements at such an unprecedented rate, we may not be too far from the virtual world, taking more and more space – even advancing to the real world. Meta, in this case, has been at the forefront of such augmented reality experiments.
Although it is in its very nascent stage, we can judge the pace at which VR turns hyper-realistic by observing the changes in the video-game industry, as mentioned before. Add facial recognition techniques, and we can even virtually go abroad, attend meetings and come back, all at the comfort of staying home and availing discounts.
What Drawbacks Does Advanced Biotechnology Have?
Reduced environmental contamination, as well as applications in industrial and medicinal operations, are just a few of the advantages of biotechnology. However, if biotechnology is used improperly, several problems may arise.
Advanced Biotechnology Has Many Unknowns
Because there are so many unanswered questions, biotechnology has several drawbacks. Even though biotechnology has developed recently, there are still many long-term repercussions that we are unaware of.
Treatment for some disorders that may have unanticipated effects is changing. For instance, certain climates are not suitable for growing specific crops. A consensus that the next generation will have to live with may result from modifying the DNA of some crops to enable them to flourish in any climate environment.
Advanced Biotechnology Can Affect Soil Fertility
Developing nutrient-dense crops is a result of technology. The soil will be where the product will obtain its nutrients. A high nutrient intake causes the ground to become less productive. If the earth has been overburdened with nutrients from the crop, it may eventually lose fertility.
If this occurs, there will be a recovery phase, which will lower the production of food produced at that time, and, in some cases, it could never recover, ruining the croplands forever.
Crop rotation will have to be tried, along with other costly long-term therapeutic methods, by people. Before beginning to farm a particular crop, it is important to consider the field’s condition.
Human Life Will Be Treated As A Commodity
The benefit of increasing human longevity is crucial for biotechnology. However, there is a discussion about whether biotechnology has turned human life into a commodity that others may control.
Some claim that the development of biotechnology has made it feasible for humans to use technology to manipulate the lives of others. Moral dilemmas have arisen due to patenting specific gene sequences that have applications in crops and people.
Advanced Biotechnology Will Create Deadly Biochemical Weapons of Mass Destruction
Imagine that biotechnology could be used to modify our cells and their components. Is there anything to say it cannot be manipulated to cause harm?
There have been many rumours about the coronavirus being a biochemical weapon to trigger World War 3. Just imagine if it was true! It is what we hate when considering a bioweapon for large-scale destruction.
The biotechnology process should therefore be monitored by appropriate authorities to prevent cases of biotechnology being used to terrorize or destroy humanity.
What Will Advanced Biotechnology Look Like in 2030?
Advanced biotechnology will shortly transform every nook and corner of the commoner’s life. The use of biotechnology will spread much like using a smartphone or the internet. With increased venture firms, there will be an even more prominent number of large and small biotech businesses.
Biotechnology, like science fiction books, may be employed in small towns or at home. Instead of going to the store to buy the household items you need, you might ask a machine to produce them for you. Biotechnological garbage converters could eliminate waste.
We may address large-scale societal problems like healthcare with the aid of biotechnology. Approximately 8 trillion US dollars are presently spent worldwide on healthcare. Thanks to advanced biotechnology, we wouldn’t have to stretch our innovation budget beyond that!
Even after the disadvantages, there have been more and more reasons to support the advancement of this branch of science to transform human lives forever. Maintaining health and well-being standards as the population grows because of technologies such as precision medicine, genome editing, organ production, and stem-cell therapy are all likely to become routine shortly.
Therefore, I believe it is reasonable to predict that by 2030, advanced biotechnology will be a part of our everyday lives, from medications, treatments, and pharmaceuticals to ecologically friendly chemicals, fuels, and materials.