21st Century Is Called Biotech Century Biology Essay

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The 21st century is called biotech century. There is a prospect for agriculture to use the biological tools to produce all the desired needs through plant biotechnology. Most of the major crops are now being genetically produced like Corn, wheat, rice, potato, soyabean, sunflower, oilseed rape, cotton and tomato.

35. Biotechnology is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering, technology, medicine and other fields requiring bioproducts. Modern use similar term includes genetic engineering as well as cell and tissue culture technologies. The concept encompasses a wide range of procedures (and history) for modifying living organisms according to human purposes - going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and "improvements" to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. By comparison to biotechnology, bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field with its emphasis more on higher systems approaches (not necessarily altering or using biological materials directly) for interfacing with and utilizing living things. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as - "Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use." [1] 

Understanding Bio-technology

36. Plant Bio-technology [2] . Plant tissue culture is a collective term for protoplast, cell, tissue and organ cultures raised under controlled environment on artificial nutrient medium. Micro-propagation or tissue culture multiplication has developed into a preferred method of cloning and bulking. Tissue culture techniques are being exploited to enhance crop production and to aid crop improvement efforts. Faster clonal multiplication is being exploited on commercial scale for many horticultural species e.g. oil palm, mentha, roses, carnation etc. Tissue cultured somatic tissues are now routinely being used for conservation of those species whose seeds are recalcitrant or ones which do not produce seed at all.

37. The most popular and widely commercialized global application of Plant Biotechnology is Micropropagation. Demand for high quality planting stock of crops such as banana, sugarcane, cardamom etc. Micropopagatin is the most commercially exploited area of plant tissue culture. Currently several genera and species encompassing the gamut of horticultural important crops are being propagated in millions and commercialized. The extensively micro propagated plants include a large number of foliage ornamentals, cut flower planting stocks and fruit yielding and agro-forestry species. However, there are quite a few important tropical fruit and tree species such as mango, litchi, coconut etc., which have remained recalcitrant.

38. Plants are regenerated mainly through a sequence of side branch (adventitious shoot) formation, using a variety of tissues as explants i.e., initiation plant piece or by enhancing axillary branching in culture shoot tips. Eventually the shoot lets in both instances are rooted either in the laboratory- in vitro or outs controlled environment greenhouses. Most rapid plant multiplication rates can be achieved through somatic cell embryogenesis. The use of bioreactors for developing somatic embryos on a large scale and subsequent germination promises to be a reality.

39. Micropropagation Technology [3] . Micropropagtion techniques can be especially useful in increasing propagates of a new sexual or somatic hybrid or a plant freed from pathogens or even in case of a genetically engineered plant. If the embryos formed by this means are enclosed in a skin like conventional seeds called 'encapsulation' in a suitable matrix would lead to the development of artificial seeds. Special delivery systems like fluid drilling will also need to be developed and perfected. Somatic embryogenesis or using vegetative plant part for plant propagation is useful in annual field crops and perennial trees. Seeds are formed by the fusion of the female ovule and the male pollen grains each containing half the genetic material. Each is said to be haploid while the seed is diploid. Triploid seeds have three haploid sets of genetic material. So the seeds of triploid plants are sterile and the plants must be propagated by other means like tissue culture. Triploid seeds is a common technique used by plants breeders and water melon has benefited greatly from this technique.

40. Micropropagation technology on a commercial basis is available for the crops like asparagus, banana, bamboo, cardamom, coffee, ginger, grapes, jackfruit, neem, orchids, pineapple, rose, rhododendron and vanilla. The plants developed by using genetic engineering technology are known as transonic plants, now available in cotton, soybean, maize, tomato, etc.

41. The biotechnological approaches are more successful in dictoy crops belonging to the genera Solanum Nicatiana, Petunia and Brassica rather than in monocotyledonous crops like wheat, rice, maize, etc. Some other successful results of gene transfer in dicot and monocot crop plants are now available in the foreign market for commercial cultivation are Bollguard cotton, New leaf potatoes with Bt gene, soybean with herbicidal resistance, savary tomatoes using antisense technique for polygalacturonase enzyme, Potato with high T.S.S, Bt corn resistant to European Corn borer, BT rice for stem borer resistance, and rice with chitinase gene for sheath blight resistance.

Branches of Biotechnology

42. Biotechnology has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastics, vegetable oil, biofuels), and environmental uses. For example, one application of biotechnology is the directed use of organisms for the manufacture of organic products (examples include beer and milk products). Another example is using naturally present bacteria by the mining industry in bioleaching. Biotechnology is also used to recycle, treat waste, clean up sites contaminated by industrial activities (bioremediation), and also to produce biological weapons. A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology which are as under [4] :-

43. Bioinformatics. It is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization and analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, "conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale." Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.

44. Blue Biotechnology. It is a term that has been used to describe the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.

45. Green Biotechnology. It is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation. Another example is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific environments in the presence (or absence) of chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thereby ending the need of external application of pesticides. An example of this would be Bt corn.

46. Red Biotechnology. It is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.

47. White Biotechnology. It is also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the using of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals. White biotechnology tends to consume less in resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods. The investment and economic output of all of these types of applied biotechnologies is termed as bioeconomy.

GM Foods

48. GM foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding (plant breeding and animal breeding), and somaclonal variation.

49. GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. Animal products have also been developed, although as of July 2010 none are currently on the market. In 2006 a pig was controversially engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the expression of a roundworm gene. Researchers have also developed a genetically-modified breed of pigs that are able to absorb plant phosphorus more efficiently, and as a consequence the phosphorus content of their manure is reduced by as much as 60% [5] .

Development

50. The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was a tomato (called FlavrSavr), which was modified to ripen without softening, by Calgene, later a subsidiary of Monsanto. Calgene took the initiative to obtain FDA approval for its release in 1994 without any special labeling, although legally no such approval was required. It was welcomed by consumers who purchased the fruit at a substantial premium over the price of regular tomatoes. However, production problems and competition from a conventionally bred, longer shelf-life variety prevented the product from becoming profitable. A tomato produced using similar technology to the Flavr Savr was used by Zeneca to produce tomato paste which was sold in Europe during the summer of 1996. The labeling and pricing were designed as a marketing experiment, which proved, at the time, that European consumers would accept genetically engineered foods. Currently, there are a number of food species in which a genetically modified version exists

as shown under [6] :-

Food

Properties of the Genetically Modified variety

Modification

Percent Modified

in US

Percent Modified in world

Soybeans

Resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides

Herbicide resistant gene taken from bacteria inserted into soybean

93%

77%

Corn, field

Resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides. Insect resistance via producing Bt proteins, some previously used as pesticides in organic crop production. Vitamin-enriched corn derived from South African white corn variety M37W has bright orange kernels, with 169x increase in beta carotene, 6x the vitamin C and 2x folate.

New genes, some from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, added/transferred into plant genome.

86%

26%

Cotton (cottonseed oil)

Pest-resistant cotton

Bt crystal protein gene added/transferred into plant genome

93%

49%

Alfalfa

Resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides

New genes added/transferred into plant genome.

Planted in the US from 2005-2007; no longer planted currently due to court decisions

Hawaiian papaya

Variety is resistant to the papaya ringspot virus.

New gene added/transferred into plant genome

80%

Food

Properties of the Genetically Modified variety

Modification

Percent Modified

in US

Percent Modified in world

Tomatoes

Variety in which the production of the enzyme polygalacturonase (PG) is suppressed, retarding fruit softening after harvesting.

A reverse copy (an antisense gene) of the gene responsible for the production of PG enzyme added into plant genome

Taken off the market due to commercial failure.

Small quantities grown in China

Rapeseed (Canola)

Resistance to herbicides (glyphosate or glufosinate), high laurate canola.

New genes added/transferred into plant genome

93%

21%

Sugar cane

Resistance to certain pesticides, high sucrose content.

New genes added/transferred into plant genome

Sugar beet

Resistance to glyphosate, glufosinate herbicides.

New genes added/transferred into plant genome

95% (2010); planting in the US is halted as of 13 Aug. 2010 by court order

9%

Rice

Genetically modified to contain high amounts of Vitamin A (beta-carotene)

"Golden rice" Three new genes implanted: two from daffodils and the third from a bacterium

Forecast to be on the market in 2012[21]

Squash (Zucchini)

Resistance to watermelon, cucumber and zucchini yellow mosaic viruses.

Contains coat protein genes of viruses.

13%

Sweet Peppers

Resistance to virus.

Contains coat protein genes of the virus.

Small quantities grown in China

51. In addition, various genetically engineered micro-organisms are routinely used as sources of enzymes for the manufacture of a variety of processed foods. These include alpha-amylase from bacteria, which converts starch to simple sugars, chymosin from bacteria or fungi that clots milk protein for cheese making, and pectinesterase from fungi which improves fruit juice clarity.

Future Developments

52. Future envisaged applications of GMOs are diverse and include drugs in food, bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, metabolically engineered fish that mature more quickly, fruit and nut trees that yield years earlier, foods no longer containing properties associated with common intolerances, and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties. While their practicality or efficacy in commercial production has yet to be fully tested, the next decade may see exponential increases in GM product development as researchers gain increasing access to genomic resources that are applicable to organisms beyond the scope of individual projects. Safety testing of these products will also, at the same time, be necessary to ensure that the perceived benefits will indeed outweigh the perceived and hidden costs of development. Plant scientists, backed by results of modern comprehensive profiling of crop composition, point out that crops modified using GM techniques are less likely to have unintended changes than are conventionally bred crops.

Adantages of Biotechnology [7] 

53. Increase in Crop Yield. Using the techniques of modern biotechnology, one or two genes may be transferred to a highly developed crop variety to impart a new character that would increase its yield. However, while increases in crop yield are the most obvious applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture, it is also the most difficult one. Current genetic engineering techniques work best for effects that are controlled by a single gene. Many of the genetic characteristics associated with yield (e.g., enhanced growth) are controlled by a large number of genes, each of which has a minimal effect on the overall yield. There is, therefore, much scientific work to be done in this area.

54. Crops can be grown on previously unplantable lands using no-till farming, a type of farming that does not require heavy-duty farm machinery to till the soil but relies on the herbicides within the plant to destroy unwanted weeds. With the no-till technique, farmers can plant on land previously too steep for farming. Very important too is that no-till farming cuts down on farmers' production costs because they do not have to rely as heavily on machinery, fuel, chemicals and labor. A major environmental benefit - which environmentalists curiously ignore - is that no-till farming can reduce erosion of critical topsoil by anywhere from 70 per cent to 98 per cent.

55. Reduced Vulnerability of Crops to Environmental Stresses. Crops containing genes that will enable them to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses may be developed. For example, drought and excessively salty soil are two important limiting factors in crop productivity. Biotechnologists are studying plants that can cope with these extreme conditions in the hope of finding the genes that enable them to do so and eventually transferring these genes to the more desirable crops. One of the latest developments is the identification of a plant gene, At-DBF2, from Arabidopsis thaliana, a tiny weed that is often used for plant research because it is very easy to grow and its genetic code is well mapped out. When this gene was inserted into tomato and tobacco cells (see RNA interference), the cells were able to withstand environmental stresses like salt, drought, cold and heat, far more than ordinary cells. If these preliminary results prove successful in larger trials, then At-DBF2 genes can help in engineering crops that can better withstand harsh environments. Researchers have also created transgenic rice plants that are resistant to rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV). In Africa, this virus destroys majority of the rice crops and makes the surviving plants more susceptible to fungal infections.

56. Increased Nutritional Qualities. Another major benefit of biotechnology is that it can significantly improve the nutritional content of various foods. Proteins in foods may be modified to increase their nutritional qualities. Proteins in legumes and cereals may be transformed to provide the amino acids needed by human beings for a balanced diet. A good example is the work of Professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in creating Golden rice. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, for instance, have developed a new breed of rice that has a higher content of iron, thus helping to address an iron deficiency suffered by 3.7 billion people worldwide. Iron deficiency can lead to the development of anemia, a disease characterized by insufficient red blood cells. The rice also contains enough Vitamin A to satisfy daily requirements in just a 300-gram serving while the same amount of standard rice contains little or no Vitamin A. Besides causing blindness, lack of Vitamin A has been linked to heart disease and some cancers. Rice fortified with Vitamin A would be especially welcomed by several Asian countries where 80 per cent of daily caloric intake consists of rice. But rice is by no means the only food that can add this much-needed vitamin to the diets of the populations of developing countries. Just recently, an international team of scientists used genetic engineering to create a tomato with three times the normal level of beta-carotene, which the human body processes into Vitamin A.

57. Improved Taste, Texture or Appearance of Food. Modern biotechnology can be used to slow down the process of spoilage so that fruit can ripen longer on the plant and then be transported to the consumer with a still reasonable shelf life. This alters the taste, texture and appearance of the fruit. More importantly, it could expand the market for farmers in developing countries due to the reduction in spoilage. However, there is sometimes a lack of understanding by researchers in developed countries about the actual needs of prospective beneficiaries in developing countries. For example, engineering soybeans to resist spoilage makes them less suitable for producing tempeh which is a significant source of protein that depends on fermentation. The use of modified soybeans results in a lumpy texture that is less palatable and less convenient when cooking.

58. Biotechnology can help largely in cheese production. Enzymes produced by micro-organisms provide an alternative to animal rennet - a cheese coagulant - and an alternative supply for cheese makers. This also eliminates possible public concerns with animal-derived material, although there are currently no plans to develop synthetic milk, thus making this argument less compelling. Enzymes offer an animal-friendly alternative to animal rennet. While providing comparable quality, they are theoretically also less expensive.

59. About 85 million tons of wheat flour is used every year to bake bread. By adding an enzyme called maltogenic amylase to the flour, bread stays fresher longer. Assuming that 10-15% of bread is thrown away as stale, if it could be made to stay fresh another 5-7 days then perhaps 2 million tons of flour per year would be saved. Other enzymes can cause bread to expand to make a lighter loaf, or alter the loaf in a range of ways.

60. Reduced dependence on fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals can also be achieved. Most of the current commercial applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture are on reducing the dependence of farmers on agrochemicals. For example, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a soil bacterium that produces a protein with insecticidal qualities. Traditionally, a fermentation process has been used to produce an insecticidal spray from these bacteria. In this form, the Bt toxin occurs as an inactive protoxin, which requires digestion by an insect to be effective. There are several Bt toxins and each one is specific to certain target insects. Crop plants have now been engineered to contain and express the genes for Bt toxin, which they produce in its active form. When a susceptible insect ingests the transgenic crop cultivar expressing the Bt protein, it stops feeding and soon thereafter dies as a result of the Bt toxin binding to its gut wall. Bt corn is now commercially available in a number of countries to control corn borer (a lepidopteran insect), which is otherwise controlled by spraying (a more difficult process).

61. Crops have also been genetically engineered to acquire tolerance to broad-spectrum herbicide. The lack of herbicides with broad-spectrum activity and no crop injury was a consistent limitation in crop weed management. Multiple applications of numerous herbicides were routinely used to control a wide range of weed species detrimental to agronomic crops. Weed management tended to rely on preemergence-that is, herbicide applications were sprayed in response to expected weed infestations rather than in response to actual weeds present. Mechanical cultivation and hand weeding were often necessary to control weeds not controlled by herbicide applications. The introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops has the potential of reducing the number of herbicide active ingredients used for weed management, reducing the number of herbicide applications made during a season, and increasing yield due to improved weed management and less crop injury. Transgenic crops that express tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate and bromoxynil have been developed. These herbicides can now be sprayed on transgenic crops without inflicting damage on the crops while killing nearby weeds.

62. From 1996 to 2001, herbicide tolerance was the most dominant trait introduced to commercially available transgenic crops, followed by insect resistance. In 2001, herbicide tolerance deployed in soybean, corn and cotton accounted for 77% of the 626,000 square kilometres planted to transgenic crops; Bt crops accounted for 15%; and "stacked genes" for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance used in both cotton and corn accounted for 8%.

63. Production of Novel Substances in Crop Plants. Biotechnology is being applied for novel uses other than food. For example, oilseed can be modified to produce fatty acids for detergents, substitute fuels and petrochemicals. Potatoes, tomatoes, rice tobacco, lettuce, safflowers, and other plants have been genetically engineered to produce insulin and certain vaccines. If future clinical trials prove successful, the advantages of edible vaccines would be enormous, especially for developing countries. The transgenic plants may be grown locally and cheaply. Homegrown vaccines would also avoid logistical and economic problems posed by having to transport traditional preparations over long distances and keeping them cold while in transit. And since they are edible, they will not need syringes, which are not only an additional expense in the traditional vaccine preparations but also a source of infections if contaminated. In the case of insulin grown in transgenic plants, it is well-established that the gastrointestinal system breaks the protein down therefore this could not currently be administered as an edible protein. However, it might be produced at significantly lower cost than insulin produced in costly bioreactors. For example, Calgary, Canada-based SemBioSys Genetics, Inc. reports that its safflower-produced insulin will reduce unit costs by over 25% or more and approximates a reduction in the capital costs associated with building a commercial-scale insulin manufacturing facility of over $100 million, compared to traditional biomanufacturing facilities.

64. Agricultural biotechnology also yields medicinal benefits. Researchers have developed a vaccine for the hepatitis virus that can be taken via banana consumption, negating the need for injection vaccines that require extensive storage and sterilization. Through the simple act of eating a banana, a patient could receive a hepatitis vaccination for a mere $.02 per dose instead of the current rate of $125 per dose.

Criticism of Biotechnology - Myths & Reality [8] 

65. Despite the vast possibilities of agricultural biotechnology, environmentalists such as Greenpeace's Benedikt Haerlin make unsubstantiated claims that governments need to "protect the environment and consumers from the dangers of genetic engineering." Contending that agricultural biotechnology is a dangerous and untested technology, environmental activists warn of a litany of environmental horrors that agricultural biotechnology could spawn, such as so-called "superweeds" spreading over the landscape, resistant to human attempts at control.

66. Environmentalists argue that agricultural biotechnology poses too many risks to human health and the environment, and that its use should be sharply curtailed or even banned altogether. Worldwide, there are a range of perspectives within non-governmental organizations on the safety of GM foods. For example, the US pro-GM pressure group AgBioWorld has argued that GM foods have been proven safe, while other pressure groups and consumer rights groups, such as the Organic Consumers Association, and Greenpeace claim the long term health risks which GM could pose, or the environmental risks associated with GM, have not yet been adequately investigated.

67. In 1998 Rowett Research Institute scientist Árpád Pusztai reported that consumption of potatoes genetically modified to contain lectin had adverse intestinal effects on rats. Pusztai eventually published a paper, co-authored by Stanley Ewen, in the journal, The Lancet. The paper claimed to show that rats fed on potatoes genetically modified with the snowdrop lectin had unusual changes to their gut tissue when compared with rats fed on non modified potatoes. The experiment has been criticised by other scientists on the grounds that the unmodified potatoes were not a fair control diet and that all the rats may have been sick, due to them being fed a diet of only potatoes.

68. In 2010 three scientists published a statistical re-analysis of three feeding trials that had previously been published by others as establishing the safety of genetically modified corn. The new article claimed that their statistics instead showed that the three patented crops (Mon 810, Mon 863, and NK 603) developed and owned by Monsanto cause liver, kidney, and heart damage in mammals. A previous re-analysis of part of this data by the same group of scientists was assessed by a panel of independent toxicologists in a study funded by Monsanto and published in the journal Food and chemical toxicology, the reviewers reported that the study was statistically flawed and providing no evidence of adverse effects.

69. Gene Transfer. As of January 2009 there has only been one human feeding study conducted on the effects of genetically modified foods. The study involved seven human volunteers who had previously had their large intestines removed. These volunteers were to eat GM soy to see if the DNA of the GM soy transferred to the bacteria that naturally lives in the human gut. Researchers identified that three of the seven volunteers had transgenes from GM soya transferred into the bacteria living in their gut before the start of the feeding experiment. As this low-frequency transfer did not increase after the consumption of GM Soya, the researchers concluded that gene transfer did not occur during the experiment. In volunteers with complete digestive tracts, the transgene did not survive passage through intact gastrointestinal tract. Anti-GM advocates believe the study should prompt additional testing to determine its significance.

70. Two studies on the possible effects of feeding genetically modified feeds to animals found that there was no significant differences in the safety and nutritional value of feedstuffs containing material derived from genetically modified plants. Specifically, the studies noted that no residues of recombinant DNA or novel proteins have been found in any organ or tissue samples obtained from animals fed with GMP plants.

71. Allergies. In the mid 1990s Pioneer Hi-Bred tested the allergenicity of a transgenic soybean that expressed a Brazil nut seed storage protein in hope that the seeds would have increased levels of the amino acid methionine. The tests (radioallergosorbent testing, immunoblotting, and skin-prick testing) showed that individuals allergic to Brazil nuts were also allergic to the new GM soybean. Pioneer has indicated that it will not develop commercial cultivars containing Brazil nut protein because the protein is likely to be an allergen.

72. A 2008 review published by the Royal Society of Medicine noted that GM foods have been eaten by millions of people worldwide for over 15 years, with no reports of ill effects. Similarly a 2004 report from the US National Academies of Sciences stated: "To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population."

73. In 2008, nearly 2,300 scientists from around the world - including respected Nobel prize-winners - have signed a petition organized by Dr. C.S. Prakash, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, strongly endorsing the environmental and nutritional safety of foods modified through agricultural biotechnology. These scientists are especially supportive of agricultural biotechnology's potential to feed a hungry world - and improve the environment at the same time. Their petition states: "Through judicious deployment, biotechnology can also address environmental degradation, hunger and poverty in the developing world by providing improved agricultural productivity and greater nutritional security."

74. Indeed, agricultural biotechnology can offer much benefit to the environment by way of less soil erosion, lower amounts of fertilizer run-off into waterways and decreased use of pesticides and herbicides. Environmentalists' war against agricultural biotechnology, a technology that has so much potential to alleviate human suffering and improve the environment, is not only illogical - it is immoral. Sadly, affluent Western environmentalists are more concerned with rigid adherence to their wrongheaded ideology than saving the lives of millions of people in the developing world.

Analysis

75. Biotechnology & modern biotechnology defined Conventional biotechnologies, such as breeding techniques, tissue culture, cultivation practices and fermentation are readily accepted and used. Between 1950 and 1980, prior to the development of GMOs, modern varieties of wheat increased yields up to 33% even in the absence of fertilizer. Modern biotechnologies used in containment have been widely adopted; e.g., the industrial enzyme market reached US$1.5 billion in 2000. The application of modern biotechnology outside containment, such as the use of GM crops is much more contentious. For example, data based on some years and some GM crops indicate highly variable 10-33% yield gains in some places and yield declines in others [9] .

76. Biotechnology will play an increasingly important role in strengthening food, water and health security systems. Recent widespread public concern relating to GM food stresses the need for more effective and transparent mechanisms for assessing the benefits and risks associated with transgenic plants and animals. An internationally agreed Biosafety Protocol on the lines recommended in Article 19 of the Convention on Biological Diversity is an urgent necessity. All food safety and environmental concerns should be addressed with the seriousness they deserve. Broad based National Commissions on Genetic Modification for Sustainable Food and Health Security could be set up, consisting of independent professionals, environmentalists, representatives of civil society, farmers' and womens' organizations, mass media and the concerned Government regulatory authorities. This will help to assure both farmers and consumers that the precautionary principle has been applied, while approving the release of GM crops.

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