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Definitions of biotechnology

A list of definitions of biotechnology from the New Zealand school curriculum and international organisations.

New Zealand Technology Curriculum (1995)

Biotechnology involves the use of living systems, organisms, or parts of organisms to manipulate natural processes in order to develop products, systems, or environments to benefit people. These may be products, such as foods, pharmaceuticals, or compost; systems, such as waste management or water purification; or environments, such as hydroponics. Biotechnology also includes genetic or biomedical engineering.

Retrieved 19 October 2009 from www.tki.org.nz/r/technology/curriculum/p12_e.php.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

The use of living things to make products.

Retrieved 19 October 2009 from http://ehrweb.aaas.org/ehr/books/glossary.html#biotechnology.

UK Biology Curriculum for GCSE students

Biotechnology describes the use of organisms and biological processes to provide food, chemicals and services to meet the needs of humans.

Retrieved 19 October 2009 from www.biotopics.co.uk/edexcel/biotechnol/defbio.html.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.

Retrieved 19 October 2009 from www.cbd.int/convention/articles.shtml?a=cbd-02.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) single definition

The application of science and technology to living organisms, as well as parts, products and models thereof, to alter living or non-living materials for the production of knowledge, goods and services.

OECD list-based definition

The following list of biotechnology techniques functions as an interpretative guideline to the single definition (above):

  • DNA/RNA: Genomics, pharmacogenomics, gene probes, genetic engineering, DNA/RNA sequencing/synthesis/amplification, gene expression profiling, and use of antisense technology.
  • Proteins and other molecules: Sequencing/synthesis/engineering of proteins and peptides (including large molecule hormones); improved delivery methods for large molecule drugs; proteomics, protein isolation and purification, signalling, identification of cell receptors.
  • Cell and tissue culture and engineering: Cell/tissue culture, tissue engineering (including tissue scaffolds and biomedical engineering), cellular fusion, vaccine/immune stimulants, embryo manipulation.
  • Process biotechnology techniques: Fermentation using bioreactors, bioprocessing, bioleaching, biopulping, biobleaching, biodesulphurisation, bioremediation, biofiltration and phytoremediation.
  • Gene and RNA vectors: Gene therapy, viral vectors.
  • Bioinformatics: Construction of databases on genomes, protein sequences; modelling complex biological processes, including systems biology.
  • Nanobiotechnology: Applies the tools and processes of nano/microfabrication to build devices for studying biosystems and applications in drug delivery, diagnostics etc.

Retrieved 19 October 2009 from


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