Biotechnology in everyday life

We encounter products manufactured with the help of microorganisms in almost every sphere of our lives—in soft drinks, while washing laundry, and in pharmaceutical products. Microbiological processes are gradually replacing petrochemistry.

Bacteria, molds, and yeasts are brilliant chemists. They manage highly complex processes within the close confines of their cells. Their metabolism transforms raw materials such as sugars and fats into many other substances. The microorganisms accumulate these products in their cells or discharge them as “molecular waste.” And the substances created by bacteria and fungi can be extremely useful to human beings. Not only can they make foods keep longer, they can also improve their taste and aroma. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and wine are some familiar examples. But these days bacteria, molds, and other microorganisms are also helping us to maintain good hygiene, have a successful visit to the doctor, or drive a car. In order to make the various products in question, microorganisms work with specialized biochemical tools called enzymes within an interconnected system. Biotechnological processes can therefore use either isolated enzymes or the complete microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeasts, or molds. One advantage of this “soft” chemistry with enzymes is that the processes are more environmentally friendly because they require fewer chemicals and less energy. This type of chemistry also makes it possible to use alternative sources of raw materials and manufacture new, sustainable products. In the past ten years industry has developed tools for using biotechnological processes, and it is increasingly taking advantage of these processes' benefits instead of relying on petrochemical processes.