8101.0 - Innovation and Technology Update (Newsletter), Nov 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/11/2001   
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There is growing recognition worldwide that biotechnology offers many opportunities for delivering economic and social benefits to citizens of both developed and developing countries. However, there is currently little statistical information available to monitor the diffusion of biotechnology and to assist with policy choices.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics is currently participating in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group that has been set up to develop a set of internationally comparable biotechnology statistical indicators. A prerequisite for this development involves the preparation of a statistical framework to specify the indicators and ways in which they might be compiled, with a key issue being the establishment of a definition for 'biotechnology'.

The current intention is that 'biotechnology' will be defined in terms of a single definition supported by a list based definition. The provisional definitions proposed by the Working Group are as follows:

Single definition: The application of S&T to living organisms as well as parts, products and models thereof, to alter living or non-living materials for the production of knowledge, goods and services.

List based: The list based definition is based on the following five categories:

  • DNA (the coding): genomics, pharmaco-genetics, gene probes, DNA sequencing/synthesis/amplification, genetic engineering.
  • Proteins and molecules (the functional blocks): protein/peptide sequencing/synthesis, lipid/protein engineering, proteomics, hormones, and growth factors, cell receptors/signalling/pheromones.
  • Cell and tissue culture and engineering: cell/tissue culture, tissue engineering, hybridisation, cellular fusion, vaccine/immune stimulants, embryo manipulation
  • Process biotechnologies: bioreactors, fermentation, bioprocessing, bioleaching, bio-pulping, bio-bleaching, biodesulphurization, bioremediation, and biofiltration.
  • Sub-cellular organisms: gene therapy, viral vectors.

As a means of refining the provisional definitions, some members of the Working Group, including Australia, are currently undertaking a pilot test of the definitions in their respective countries. Any comments on the above definitions would be greatly appreciated. Comments can be sent to Derek Byars at derek.byars@abs.gov.au. Alternatively, if you feel that a meeting would be more productive, please email Derek or contact him on (02) 6252 5627.