According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, biotechnology is “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.” 1 The concept of “specific use” involves some sort of commercial application. Genetic engineering, artificial selection, antibiotic production, and cell culture are current topics of study in biotechnology. However, humans have used prokaryotes to create products before the term biotechnology was even coined. And some of the goods and services are as simple as cheese, yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, cured sausage, sauerkraut, and fermented seafood that contains both bacteria and archaea (Figure 13.9).
Cheese production began around 4,000 years ago when humans started to breed animals and process their milk. Evidence suggests that cultured milk products, like yogurt, have existed for at least 4,000 years.