Biotechnology is part of everyday life, and has been for thousands of years. People have cultured bacteria to make yoghurt and cheese; used yeasts to make bread; fermented grapes to make wine; and selectively bred plants and animals to create new types of fruits, more powerfully scented flowers, and sheep with whiter, finer wool.
As we learn more about the complex systems inside living organisms, we are able to find new and different ways in which these systems might be used to human advantage.
In particular, understanding the functioning of DNA in living organisms has increased the ways in which people can think about doing new things. For example, understanding the genetics of farm animals and crops can lead to more advanced decision-making regarding breeding for particular characteristics. There is also the potential to manipulate (or change) the genetics of living organisms. This is called genetic modification or genetic engineering. Genetic modification in New Zealand is strictly controlled.
Over the next decade, it is likely that developments in biotechnology will transform New Zealand's agribusiness sector, with the production of new varieties of crops and improved industrial processes in the dairy and meat industries. Biotechnology will also change the way diseases such as diabetes and cancer are diagnosed and treated.
- Get video: Biotechnology for a better future, part 1
- Get video: Biotechnology for a better future, part 2
- Get video: Biotechnology for a better future, part 3
- Get video: Biotechnology for a better future, part 4
- Get video: New Zealand’s strengths in biotechnology
Modern technologies mean that the changes that are possible now can be greater and more rapid than ever before. It is very important that the public and Government work together to decide the sorts of changes that are acceptable, and those that are not.
- 12 November 2007