Biotechnology is a broad term that applies to all practical uses of living organisms-anything from microorganisms used in the fermentation of beer to the most sophisticated application of gene therapy. The term covers applications that are old and new, familiar and strange, sophisticated and simple. Defined in this way, the term is almost too broad to be useful.

One way of thinking about biotechnology is to consider two categories of activities: those that are traditional and familiar and those that are relatively new. Within each category can be found technologies that are genetic-that involve modifications of traits passed down from one generation to the next-and technologies that are not.

Although there are interesting issues connected with a number of biotechnologies-both old and new-most work focuses on genetic engineering, a new genetic biotechnology.