In the broadest sense, biotechnology is the application of living organisms or parts of organisms to improve, modify, or produce products or processes for specific uses. Biotechnology has been around for centuries. Microorganisms have long been used in the production of bread, yogurt, alcoholic beverages, antibiotics, and enzymes.
In the past few decades, techniques in biotechnology have expanded to include genetic engineering. With this technology scientists can move genetic material of one organism into another. The genetic insert can allow the organism to express desired characteristics. For example, insertion of a piece of DNA from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the DNA of corn plants can enable these plants plants and their progeny to produce a Bt protein which confers resistance to particular insect pests. A wide variety of organisms can now be routinely altered in such ways, and the diversity of traits that can be conferred is nearly limitless. EPA is currently responsible for regulating a subset of products developed using biotechnology.