Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education Website Archive

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What is biotechnology?

Using living things to create products or to do tasks for human beings is a general description of biotechnology.

'Biotechnology' is the practice of using plants, animals and micro-organisms such as bacteria, as well as biological processes - such as the ripening of fruit or the bacteria that break down compost - to some benefit.

For example, in industry, medicine and agriculture, biotechnology is used to produce foods, medicines, test for diseases and remove waste.

It can also be used to solve problems and conduct research. Over time biotechnology has formed the basis of learning about people and diseases. Biotechnology has also underpinned the development of treatments.

This section explains the basic science behind biotechnology, including gene technology, and can be used as an introduction to the topic, or as a cross-reference when working through the rest of this resource.