The use of living organisms, or any part thereof, or its products for industrial or commercial use is the basis of biotechnology. There are examples of the use of microorganisms biotechnology from ancient times, such as the fermentation of alcoholic beverages and bread making. From this perspective, even the selection and breeding of different varieties of plant and animal production of agricultural and livestock throughout history may be considered biotechnological approaches. The discovery and characterization of maintenance processes and flow of biological information has led to the expansion of the number of biotech applications.
Scientific and industrial environments are increasingly specialized and diverse, and therefore use a greater or lesser extent of biotechnology as a tool for their processes. This diversity in turn has determined the need for a classification system that uses biotechnology to group them according to their common characteristics or their final use. As a result, five clusters are currently considered fundamental biotechnological applications, which have been identified by a color system :
The red biotech pools all uses of biotechnology related to medicine. Red biotech includes the development of vaccines and antibiotics, the development of new medications, molecular diagnostic techniques, regenerative therapies and the development of genetic engineering to cure disease through genetic manipulation. Some of the most relevant examples of red biotech are cell therapy and regenerative medicine, gene therapy and drugs based on biological molecules, such as antibody therapeutics.
The white biotech encompasses all those uses of biotechnology related to industrial processes. For this reason, white biotechnology is also known as industrial biotech. White biotech pays special attention to the design of processes and products that use less resources than traditional, making them more energy efficient and less polluting. There are numerous examples of white biotech, such as the use of microorganisms for the production of chemicals, design and production of new everyday materials (plastics, textiles ...) and the development of new sustainable energy sources, such as biofuels.
The blue biotech is based in the exploitation of marine resources for the generation of products and applications of industrial interest. If we consider that the sea offers the greatest biodiversity, there is potentially a huge variety of sectors that can benefit from the use of blue biotechnology. Many of the products and blue biotechnology applications are under research, although there are already examples of using some of them on a daily basis.
Green Biotech is centered focuses on agriculture as an exploitation field. The focuses and uses of Green biotech include creating new varieties of plants of agricultural interest, the production of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, in vitro culture and cloning of plants. The first of these approaches is the one that has undergone further development and which has raised the most interest and controversy in society. Creating modified varieties of plants is based almost exclusively on transgenesis, or introduction of genes from another variety or organism into the plant. By using this technology three fundamental objectives are intended. First, it seeks to obtain varieties resistant to pests and diseases. By way of example, corn varieties which are pest- resistant, are being currently marketed. A second use of transgenic plants aims at developing varieties with may improve nutritional properties (eg, higher content of vitamins). Finally, transgenesis in plants is also studied as a means to develop varieties of plants that act as bio-producing substances of medical, biomedical or industrial fields in easily separable and purifiable quantities.
Grey Biotech is comprised by direct all applications of biotechnology to the environment. It is possible to divide these applications into two main groups: the biodiversity maintenance and the pollutants removal. Regarding the first, it include the application of molecular biology to genetic analysis of populations and species which comprise the ecosystem, their comparison and cataloging. They may also include cloning techniques to preserve species and the use of storage technology genomes. As for the removal of contaminants or bioremediation, gray biotech uses microorganisms and plants for the isolation and removal of various substances such as heavy metals and hydrocarbons, with the interesting possibility of using these substances or using byproducts from this activity later.