Biotechnology has been used since the 1800 BC in the production of foods and beverages such as bread, cheese, beer and wine, through fermentation. The word "biotechnology" emerged in the twentieth century, when the scientist Herbert Boyer introduced the gene responsible for the production of human insulin to bacteria, for it to produce the substance. Thereafter began modern biotechnology.
Scientific research has led to new techniques that have allowed the transfer of genes from one species to another, providing a range of healthcare applications. The production of human insulin has been one of the main achievements in biotechnology, because it is essential for patients with diabetes. Also in healthcare, biotechnology is used to produce human hormones and vaccines.
Many countries use such knowledge in agriculture to produce genetically modified foods. It is, then, possible to make crops more resistant to pests and disease and to increase their tolerance to herbicides. Other research in the area focuses on food with more nutrients and vitamins, plants that are more resistant to drought, and other advances.
Currently, one of the most important uses of biotechnology is in the production of biofuels that not only replace fossil energy but are also cheaper. Since the 1980s, Brazil has invested in science and technology and in the training of human resources in this area. One example is the Biotechnology Development Policy, drawn up to support the incorporation of this technology into Brazil's industrial processes, and to leverage social and economic development.