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How Is Biotechnology Used?

photo of plant speciman

Four primary fields have affected by advances in biotechnology. Here are just some of the uses that have been discovered for biotechnology in those fields. Perhaps you could help develop the next advancement!


  • Designing organisms to produce antibiotics
  • Creating medicines that are more effective and have fewer side effects
  • Conducting gene therapy, genetic testing and DNA fingerprinting
  • Using microorganisms to produce vaccines and hormones; insulin is produced this way
  • Creating new vaccines by genetically altering food, which could revolutionize medicine in Third World countries
  • Modifying microorganisms to produce products such as vaccines and insulin

Agriculture and Animal Husbandry

  • Improving crop yield
  • Controlling weeds and animal pests
  • Making crops tolerant to environmental stresses such as drought, temperature extremes and salt
  • Increasing nutritional qualities of food crops
  • Reducing dependence on fertilizers and pesticides
  • Creating pasture plants that are more digestible for livestock
  • Protecting animals against parasites
  • Genetically modifying crops to be disease-resistant or alter the timing of fruit production


  • Developing biocatalysts, such as enzymes, to synthesize chemicals, thereby reducing the environmental impact of industrial processes in chemical manufacturing
  • Developing plant alternatives for fuel and manufacturing to reduce dependence on finite energy and material sources

Environmental Uses

  • Using microbes to clean up pollution such as coastal oil spills
  • Developing biofuels as a renewable source to replace “dirtier” traditional fuels
  • Treating waste and preventing pollution
  • Engineering plants to remove heavy metals such as arsenic from soil
  • Creating soil-dwelling microbes to digest environmental contaminants
  • Converting waste such as manure into plastic or biofuel
  • Detecting, removing and treating toxins in water, air, food and soil
  • Using bacteria to remove ores from waste heaps