UPSC Mains – Science & Tech Most Important 100 Topics UPSC 2022 Lecture 2 – Free PDF Download


Agenda of the Day

  1. Biotechnology in General
  2. Genetic Engineering
      1. Recombinant DNA
      2. Stem Cell Research
      3. Mitochondrial DNA
      4. GM Crops in India


  1. What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society? (15)
  2. How can biotechnology help to improve the living standards of farmers? (15)
  3. Why is there so much activity in the field of biotechnology in our country? How has this activity benefitted the field of biopharma? (15)
  4. Stem cell therapy is gaining popularity in India to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including leukaemia, Thallesemia, damaged sornea and several burns. Describe briefly what stem cell therapy is and what advantages it has over other treatments? (10)

What is Biotechnology?

  • Biotechnology is basically technology that utilizes biological systems.
  • Anything can be biotechnology where a living organism or any part of living organism is used to obtain or produce a desired product.
  • For example, a simple process of making bread using yeast can also be categorized as Biotechnology.
  • However, in modern day parlance with the emergence of genetic engineering in the 1970s, new possibilities have emerged. Today, biotechnology deals with industrial scale production of biopharmaceuticals and biologicals using genetically modified microbes, fungi, plants and animals. The applications of biotechnology include therapeutics, diagnostics, genetically modified crops for agriculture, processed food, bioremediation, waste treatment, energy production etc.

What is Biotechnology?


What is Biotechnology?

  • Red biotechnology – Health branch
  • Green biotechnology – Agri Branch
  • White biotechnology –  Industrial branch
  • Yellow biotechnology – Food industry
  • Blue biotechnology – Marine branch
  • Grey biotechnology –  Environment/Ecosystem
  • Gold biotechnology – Information Branch

Biotechnology Applications

  • Biotechnology
    • Agriculture
    • Therapeutics/Diagnostics
    • Genetic engineering
    • Food processing
    • Bioinformatics
    • Environment/
    • Bioremediation
    • Waste treatment
    • Biofuels/
    • Energy production

Food Processing

  • Biotechnology has a major application in the food sector.
    1. Preparation of Bread, cheese, wine, beer, yogurt, and vinegar (Fermentation, Enzymes etc)
    2. Biotech preservation of food by edibility, texture, and storage of the food (Shelf Life)
    3. Food-contamination testing (Bio Sensors)
    4. GM crop development
    5. Food fortification (Improving food Nutrition)
    6. Improved yield (Milk – Bovine Somatotropin hormone inducement)


  • Applications of Biotechnology in Agriculture
    1. GM Crops
    2. Hybrid Seeds, Artificial Seeds, HYV Seeds
    3. Biofertilizers
    4. Biopesticides
    5. Sustainable agriculture

Medicine/Bio Pharma

  • Applications of Biotechnology in Medicine
    1. Diagnosis and treating different diseases
    2. Gene therapy
    3. Recombinant DNA technology
    4. Polymerase chain reactions
    5. GM animals & Organ
    6. GM Mosquitoes
    7. Stem cell therapy & Stem cell transplantation


  • Application of Biotechnology in Environment
    1. Detection of Particulate Matter 2.5 in the air (Biomarkers)
    2. Biotechnology based fuels
    3. Bio fertilizers & Pesticides
    4. Biosensors (analytical devices incorporating a biological material)
    5. Bio remediation (Waste treatment, SWM, Biodegradation etc)

Biotechnology Based Challenges in India

  • Low investment in R&D in India (Less than 1% of GDP)
  • Weak Regulatory mechanism
  • Less lucrative sector in terms of opportunities
  • Lack of awareness in general
  • Adverse public opinion towards GM crops
  • IPR challenges

Biotechnology Initiatives

Biotechnology Initiatives

What is Genetic Engineering?

  • Genetic engineering involves the techniques to alter the chemistry of genetic material and hence changing the phenotype of the host organism.
  • Most basic technique of gene engineering is traditional hybridization. Hybridisation is used in plant and animal breeding. It often leads to inclusion and multiplication of undesirable genes along with the desired genes.
  • Note: Asexual reproduction preserves the genetic information, while sexual reproduction permits variation.

Genetic Engineering

  • Genetic engineering
    • Recombinant DNA technology
    • Gene Cloning
    • Gene transfer
    • Stem Cell therapy
    • Gene Mathematics
    • Biostatistics
    • Bio Physics

Recombinant DNA

  • Recombinant DNA (rDNA) is a technology that uses enzymes to cut and paste together DNA sequences of interest.
  • The recombined DNA sequences can be placed into vehicles called vectors that ferry the DNA into a suitable host cell where it can be copied or expressed.


Recombinant DNA

  • Isolation of Genetic Material
  • Cutting the gene at the recognition sites.
  • Restriction enzymes like Endonucleases and Exonucleases are employed
  • Amplifying the gene copies through Polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
  • Polymerase enzymes help to synthesize & amplify gene for copying
  • Ligation of DNA Molecules.
  • Enzyme ligases help to bind copied gene to host DNA
  • Insertion of Recombinant DNA Into Host
  • Injection can be done through microinjection or gene gun techniques

Applications of Recombinant DNA


Gene Editing – CrispR

  • Genome editing also called gene editing is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.
  • Several approaches to genome editing have been developed. A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
  • The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated a lot of excitement in the scientific community because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

Gene Editing – CrispR

  • CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria.
  • The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays.
  • The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses . If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA.
  • The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.

Gene Editing – CrispR

  • The CRISPR-Cas9 system works similarly in the lab.
  • Researchers create a small piece of RNA with a short “guide” sequence that attaches to a specific target sequence of DNA in a genome.
  • RNA also binds to the Cas9 enzyme. As in bacteria, the modified RNA is used to recognize the DNA sequence, and the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location.
  • Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell’s own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence.
  • Note: Cas9 is the enzyme that is used most often, other enzymes like Cpf1 can also be used.


Stem Cell Research

  • In recent times, the CRISPR/Cas9 system has been applied in genetic modification of pluripotent or multipotent stem cells, after which the cells are differentiated into specific cell types and used for functional analysis or even clinical transplantation.
  • Recent advancement in CRISPR/Cas9 technology has widened the scope of stem cell research and its therapeutic application.
  • Note: Stem cells and their derivatives fall under definition of ‘drug’ as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, and are categorized as ‘investigational new drug (IND)’ or ‘investigational new entity (INE)’ when used for clinical application.

Stem Cell Research

  • Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth.
  • When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.


Stem Cell Research

  • Adult Stem cells are pretty ubiquitous in the body, appearing in many different organs and tissues including the brain, blood, bone marrow, muscle, skin, heart, and liver tissues. In these areas, they lie dormant until needed to regenerate lost or damaged tissue.
    1. Embryonic stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells. These stem cells are pluripotent stem cells, meaning they can divide into more stem cells or can become any type of cell in the body.
      • This versatility allows embryonic stem cells to be used to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs.
    2. Perinatal stem cells have also been discovered to be found in stem cells in amniotic fluid as well as umbilical cord blood.

Stem Cell Research – Problem

Stem Cell Research – Problem

  • What is the problem with Adult Stem Cells?
    1. Although research into adult stem cells is promising, adult stem cells may not be as versatile and durable as are embryonic stem cells.
    2. Adult stem cells may not be able to be manipulated to produce all cell types, which limits how adult stem cells can be used to treat diseases.
    3. Adult stem cells also are more likely to contain abnormalities due to environmental hazards, such as toxins, or from errors acquired by the cells during replication.

Mitochondrial DNA

  • Mitochondrial DNA is the small circular chromosome found inside mitochondria which are called “powerhouse of the cell”.
  • The peculiar thing about mitochondrial DNA is that, it is passed almost exclusively from mother to offspring through the egg cell.
  • If we study, mitochondrial DNA, it is easier to track across the maternal generations.


Mitochondrial DNA Disorders

  • Mitochondrial diseases are long-term, genetic, often inherited disorders that occur when mitochondria fail to produce enough energy for the body to function properly.
  • One in 5,000 individuals has a genetic mitochondrial disease.
  • Common clinical features of mitochondrial disorders include external ophthalmoplegia, proximal myopathy and exercise intolerance, cardiomyopathy, sensorineural deafness, optic atrophy, pigmentary retinopathy, diabetes mellitus etc.

Three Parent Baby – Solution to Mitochondrial Disorders


Can you think of any issues with Stem Cell research or Mitochondrial DNA or Gene Engg itself?

  1. Technological Challenges
  2. Financial Challenges
  3. Legal Challenges
  4. Ethical Challenges
  1. Is there any ethical issue in Gene Editing?
  2. Embryo – Is it a beginning of life or not?
  3. Where do we stop?
  • Creation of three-parent babies or multi baby parent?
  • What about the Child’s identity?
  • What would be its impact on Society?
  • Do we have the right to play GOD?

Genetically Modified Crops

  • Genetic engineering has been used in agricultural applications as well to produce GM crops.
  • GM crops are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified, usually by inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it a new property, such as increased yield, tolerance to a herbicide, resistance to disease or drought, or to improve its nutritional value.



GM Crops in India

  • GM plants have been useful in many ways. Genetic modification has made crops more tolerant to abiotic stresses. In some cases it has reduced reliance on chemical pesticides.
  • It has also increased efficiency of mineral usage by plants and added nutritional value of food. In India, few Bt variety of crops have been approved.
  • Bt toxin is produced by a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. Some strains of Bacillus thuringiensis produce proteins that kill certain insects like budworm, armyworm, beetles etc. Bt toxin protein exist as inactive protoxins but once an insect ingest the inactive toxin, it is converted into an active form of toxin & kills the insect.
  • Bt toxin gene has been cloned from the bacteria and been expressed in plants to provide resistance to insects without the need for insecticides. Examples include Bt cotton, Bt corn, Bt rice etc

GM Crops in India

  • Bt Cotton
    • In India, for the time being, the only genetically modified crop that is under cultivation in India is Bt cotton which is grown over 10.8 million hectares.
  • Bt Brinjal
    • In 2007, GEAC recommended the commercial release of Bt Brinjal, which was developed by Mahyco & Dharwad University of Agricultural sciences. It was disallowed in 2021 after protests.
  • GM-mustard
    • Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 or DMH-11 is a genetically modified variety of mustard developed by the Delhi University. It is still under review to be approved .

GM crops – The Debate

Arguments for GM Crops

  1. 1) GM crops can address challenges of food security.
  2. 2)Success of BT cotton.
  3. 3) Farmers can benefit from higher yields and income.
  4. 4) GM crops can decrease the use of pesticides and herbicides.
  5. 5) GM crops can be engineered to withstand weather fluctuations and extremes.
  6. 6) GM crops can reduce import bill eg: Oil seeds.

Arguments against GM Crops

  1. 1) GM crops can cause long term consequences on human health. Ex: Probable carcinogen
  2. 2) GM crops are self-replicating organisms and cause genetic contamination of the environment which cannot be reversed.
  3. 3) Its impact on the health of the people, environment, soil, groundwater or food chain is not known yet.
  4. 4) Farmers will become susceptible to the practices of MNCs
  5. 5) Regulation is not effective and conflict of interest is present
  6. 6) Lack of transparency in the regulatory process

Biotechnology Institutions in India

  • Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
    • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a statutory committee & functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). As per Rules, 1989, it is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
    • The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the enviornment including experimental field trials.
    • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above.

Biotechnology Regulation in India

  • The Biotech regulation provisions
    • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
    • Rules for the Manufacture, Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (Rules,1989)
    • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee renamed as Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee in 2010.
    • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
    • Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 2003
    • Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

Probable Areas

  1. DNA Technology (Use And Application) Regulation Bill, 2019  & DNA Profiling – Analysis
  2. What is DNA Fingerprinting?
  3. What is Xenotransplantation?
  4. What is Genome Sequencing? – Advantages of Genome Sequencing
  5. Visit DBT website for sure..!!




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