Microbial Processes & Products in Biotechnology

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  • 0:00 What is Biotechnology?
  • 0:54 Biotechnology & Food
  • 1:39 Household Products
  • 2:59 Other Products from…
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Biotechnology may sound like a fancy term, but it is applicable to very basic things in your everyday life. In this video lesson we'll look at some of the things that come from microbes in biotechnology, some of which might surprise you!

What is Biotechnology?

What do blue jeans, toast, diapers and beer all have in common? They are all products of biotechnology. Biotechnology is the manipulation of organisms or parts of organisms to create other products. This sounds like a modern concept of the 21st century, but biotechnology has actually been around for a very long time. People have long used biotechnology to not only selectively breed animals, such as livestock and pets, but also to make things like wine, cheese and beer with microbes, which are just microscopic single-celled organisms.

Today, biotechnology, also called DNA technology, is a far-reaching field, affecting almost every aspect of life you can think of. Let's take a look at some of the amazing and surprising ways that microbes are used in modern biotechnology.

Biotechnology & Food

You've probably heard about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. These are organisms that have been modified through biotechnology and today this is widely seen in the agricultural industry. There are numerous reasons that someone might want to alter the DNA of a particular crop, such as higher crop yield, larger plant size, faster growth, and disease resistance.

Fungi are an essential part of biotechnology. Certain fungi are used to ripen cheese and give it distinctive flavors, like blue cheese. Yeasts are used to cause bread to rise and to help make beer, as well as yogurt, soy sauce and other things. And still other microbes are used as additives to food, as things like thickeners, vitamins and flavoring agents.

Household Products

Even if you don't like cheese or bread, there's still a household full of biotechnology for you. Look in your kitchen, laundry room and bathroom and you'll find biotechnology just about everywhere. Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals rely on biotechnology to make products that don't irritate your skin when you use them. The paper towels and toilet paper you use today employ microbes and biotechnology to reduce the chemicals used during production that could be released into the environment. Biotechnology helps laundry and dish detergents clean better and at lower temperatures, making them more effective and efficient. And microbes are now used in the manufacturing of some diapers, so they can be composted instead of being thrown into the trash.

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