Advances In Plant Biotechnology Biology Essay


Plant technology developed in early 1970s that allow planting breeders that they can select gene or trait and may incorporate directly into plants. Plants production using this technology often called Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs), but precisely referred as transgenic plants. Modern biotechnological produced plants are having negative effects because of the concern of consumer due for the safety of food and their effect on environment. Such consumer concerns often lead to risk of disrupting international trade flows. But on the other hand biotechnology is showing a bright future of these plants in order to feed the future populations of the world. The main aim of this review is to explain the use of plant biotechnology for generating commercial useful products which are useful and also to review the consumer concerns. In order to produce proper amount of food for the future populations of the worlds in upcoming period, which is now seemed to be possible by biotechnology. Similarly, by the help of biotechnology new pathways can be discovered to improve the characteristics of plants into lowering the production costs and obtaining high yields. These properties of biotechnology make it an important field in plant science.


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Through out the beginning, nature has been playing an important role in the plant breeding through its natural selection resulting in the significant changes in plant breeds. For decades, conventional plant breeding helped in bringing hardiness and yield through cross-breeding of those plants which are related to each other. This period of conventional plant breeding was a long process of trials and errors but this helped in producing plants with new traits on the same length of land.

Biotechnology may differ conventional breeding in two ways. For transformation, selectivity of gene is one big difference. In the process of cross breeding if there is assumption to develop to a plant which is resistant to a specific insects, many other source of material and characteristic are also transferred including those which are not desirable. Lengthy field trial and much crop generation are selected and grown with desirable characteristics. However, with biotechnology only desired trait gene is transferred, thus it improving the plant process with speeding and selection in more precise way. The second difference occurs during the transformation of genetic material from wide variety of sources to the target plants. Traditional plant breeding is limited concerning the specie for crossed and limit characteristic that transferred. With the use of gene pool for plant improvement may enhance the substantial improvement in the nutritional, industrial and environmental values of crop and thereby, the development of crop will resist to wide variety of diseases, insects and growing condition such as increased tolerance to cold, salt etc. this characteristic is controversial and more concerned about new products (Altman, 1998).

Furthermore, large amount of crop cultivation is usually obtained by using high amount of fertilizers and pesticides. But in some areas soils may be acidic or saline which decreases the yield. Moisture content of the soil also plays important role in decreasing crop yield. Improper supplies of water and other contents related to crop production also leads towards limited yield. So the main goal of the agriculture science and biological sciences is to increase the yield with in the same area using before by improving the traits of plants and using low cost high yield formula in an environment friendly system (Altman, 1998).

Higher yields:

Crops yields have been affected and are reduced through out the world because of diseases that occurs to the crops and due to pests at the phase of growth and development. Even the crops are also affected after harvesting by these elements. For example borer which is a common European corn insect decreases the yield of maze due to its difficulty to control with insecticides. Yield of cotton boll also decreases after the attack by insects even if premium insecticides are applied. New era plant technology helped us to produce such corn and cotton seeds which already contains insecticides inside them which helps them to develop resistance against insects. For example, insecticidal microbe Bacillus thuringiensis produced transgenic cotton varieties which contain insect resistance gene are now easily being grown commercially in Africa, Mexico, china , Indonesia and India have followed the Bt cotton adoption in china, which began in early 1997. By 2001, an average of 0.42 hectares and 1.5 million hectares of Bt cotton are growing by 3.5 million farmers. This is roughly equal to 31 % planted area for cotton in china (Pay et al., 2002). This improved technology also helped us by utilization of lower amount of pesticides which is in turn provides us an environment friendly system. Biotechnology has developed a virus resistive gene which helps those crops which are affected by viruses. For example, yams which are a food crop in South Africa can be successfully made resistant to virus by introducing viral resistive gene (Yousouf et al., 2001). Environmental benign herbicides which resist soybean plants permit the use of those herbicides instead of less benign chemicals, which function is to kill the weeds for better nutrient and moisture. In addition, the utility and efficiency of plants in fertilizer usages will be improve soon as much research is going on the mechanism of fertilizer and in biochemistry. This will ultimately reduce the fertilizer inputs and undesirable effects, particularly on surface and ground water.

Improved products:

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Indications have been found in significant improvement of human health by the application of biotechnology. Application of plant biotechnology leads us to the possibilities for the improvement of the characteristics of crops and plants which in turn is helpful in increasing human health by consuming healthy food. Studies have been carried out by Doctors which indicates that certain vegetable oils are useful for human health as compared to common oils. Research is undergoing to develop soybeans and canola which contain higher contents of healthy oils required by human body. Most of the developing countries where maze and rice is basic food crop to obtain most of the calories consumed, more often in children is indicated to be harmful for its inadequate dietary protein contents (Huang et al., 2002). So researchers are trying to improve the protein content and amino acid composition of these crops by the help of conventional plant breeding methods. However biotechnology is showing the bright future for the development of improved nutritional quality crops.

Advances in plant Biotechnology:

Plant molecular farming

Development of recombinant proteins (including pharmaceuticals and industrial) in plants is done through Plant molecular farming (PMF). Different kinds of secondary metabolites in plants are also produced by PMF. This process is useful helps to carry out certain specific processes such as growing, harvesting, harvesting, storage and downstream processes of protein extraction and purification. (Wilde et al., 2002). Use of this technology relates to the genetically transformation of plants, this was first stated in 1980s (Bevan et al., 1983). During the period of 1986 and 1989, much development took place in the biotechnology. The first ever production of recombinant pharmaceutical protein derived from plant (human growth hormone) and the production of first recombinant antibody ( expressed in the progeny of the cross of two individual transgenic plants expressing single immunoglobulin gamma and kappa) from transgenic plants took place during this period (Hiatt et al., 1989; Barta et al., 1986). But on the commercial scale production it was done during the period of 1997 when transgenic maize was produced with expression of recombinant protein called avidin,(an egg protein) (Hood et al., 1997). These developments indicate utilization of crops and plants for the commercial scale production of recombinant proteins is possible. The ability of plants to produce more complex functional mammalian proteins with therapeutic effects has been experimentally approved over the past decades. Example of such proteins cans human serum proteins and growth regulators, vaccines, antibodies, hormones, cytokines, and enzymes (Liénard et al., 2007). This is due to their ability to undergo post-translational modifications which helps in folding of recombinant proteins properly and for the maintenance of their functional and structural integrity.

Due to the high demand of biopharmaceuticals in relation with the deficiency and high costs of current production process (Knäblein, 2005), which include microbes, animal cells and y yeast (Jones et al., 2003) and transgenic animals (Harvey et al., 2002), but now the limitation have been arise in the manufacturing capacities on such a level that some patients have to wait for such products to be utilized by them. However in comparison with existing system, transgenic plants are gaining more popularity as new era bioreactors for the production of such products, with PMF indentified active research's and developments taking place in over hundred and twenty companies, universities and research institutes around the globe (Basaran and Rodríguez-Cerezo, 2008).

Plant transformation strategies for the production of recombinant proteins:

Stable nuclear transformation

Stable nuclear transformation refers to the insertion of a foreign gene or a gene of interest into the nuclear DNA resulting in modification of the genomic composition. The high protein deposition rate in dry seeds of cereals which inhibits protein degradation and the long term storage capacity has made this method extensively used in recombinant protein production (Horn et al., 2004). It is also co-related to an increased stability of the inherited traits. The high scale-up capacity has paved way for large scale cultivation and production of cereals. The limiting factors include the vague production process and capacity to cross with native species or food crops (Commandeur et al., 2003).

Stable plastid transformation

It is an alternative approach to nuclear transformation and plastid transformation is preferred to nuclear transformation because the trans-gene is non-transferable. The transgene contained chloroplasts are selected after several generations from plant regeneration by bombardment of ex-plants in streptomycin contained medium. Recent reports have revealed that there is a 3-6% increase in total soluble proteins in tobacco chloroplast (Reddy, 2008).and there is a 70% increase in total soluble proteins. From the reports, it is evident that this transformation method is efficient in recombinant protein production. But, it is restricted to only tobacco plants and there is instability in the protein at diverse environmental conditions (Horn et al., 2004).

Plant cell suspension culture

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This plant production system is used for mammalian in bio-pharmaceutical production. It assures sterile in-vitro conditions, purified product, stability, cheaper and less downstream processing (Kim et al., 2008), reduction in heterogenity of the protein and generation of uniformed size and type of cells (Lienard et al). The regeneration and characterization of transgenic plants is not necessary because the cell lines are generated in a short period. Its application is limited to a small number of well characterized plant cell lines such as tobacco, rice, carrot and Arabidopsis (Breyer et al., 2009)

Plant biotechnology: Limititations and issues

Small-farmer issues

The developing countries face the problem that their farmer are poor and uneducated thereby purchasing and application of crop protection chemicals are less approachable. This can only be beneficial when crop protection is incorporate into the seed the farmer plants and become easily available for any farmer without concerned of size or sophistication of farer operation. Thus, the argument about biotechnology large scale production remains controversial or incorrect.

Several arguments revealed that with the use of biotechnology for plants improvements will produce the low cost of substitute for crops which now grown by farmers in develop countries. For example, substitute for the vanilla bean which intentionally destroys the necessities of small farmers in Madagascar or in West Africa, displacement of small farmers are due to genetically improved cocoa verities through plantation farmers in other countries. Indeed, the improved verities of crop could help in prevent the threat of these crops, that of the chemical synthetic development.

All of the discussed benefits are about to understand through the modern biotechnology. However, the products which are geneticicaly engineered mostly produced by Japan and Europe should be banned in commercial use or may be coated with special label, handling and requirement be used.

Products developed concerned using Biotechnology:

There are two major ethical concerned related to use of biotechnology in plant improvement that threat to human health and as well environment.

Human health concerns:

It is usually concerned that the drawbacks of biotechnology on human health comes from the introduction of genetic material from different sources into human food. It is believe that introduced genetic material could be a cause of allergic reactions. The cited case revealed that the introduction of genes from brazil nuts into other food stuffs thereby cause allergic reactions and there is fear as well that the material which isolate from antibiotic as "marker gene" in maize could increase the possibility of antibiotic resistance in those who eat maize. Some researcher report that these incident are minimize in traditional plants breeding as die to inability to cross species.

Risks to the environment:

Genetic modification of plants with traditional cross breeding or with biotechnology possibly produces direct effects of gene on the environment or may create interaction between existing and new gene. It is argued that due to plant biotechnology and its functional ability of using gene from other species increase the chance of plants production that will have deleterious impact on the environment. However, another related concerned is that "outcrossing" occur in between newly engineered and existing wild cousins, create new plants that might have negative impacts on the environment. On of the false believe about outcrossing that development of a herbicide resistant soybean may create weeds which might be resistant to specific herbicides. Similarly, it is feared that natural balance or environment could be upset due to plant verities that has resistant to insects or disease crossed with weeds or other plants. Some also believe that with the excess use of biotechnology, it is threaten the diversity if world's plant population.

Developing world concerns

There is a little fear that biotechnology could develop wide gap between poor and rich countries as it become a development private sector in developed countries.

Commonly genetic modified organisms used as commercial crops by many developed countries. These issues could not change the potential benefits for the developed countries, similarly as less developed countries improved lot of millions by green revolution. Therefore it is clearly suggest that for the GMO production, more public fund will be required that may fulfill the specific needs of developing countries where market sources are not enough to carried out needed research.

Moral/Ethical objections

There are number of objection occur against GMOs production and usage.

The most common is that mans are not allowed to modify genes and secrecies boundaries. However, they always tried to improve their living condition with the mean of availability. I.e. long time use of traditional plant and animal improvement process. Another issue which arises by some peoples is belong to their dietary intake. Some of them adhere to vegetables diets perhaps by religious issues or any other factors. They believe that by the use of genes in certain crops improvements effort could violet their religious or ethical concerned for vegetable diets. Industries and some commercial companies are not liable to change their moral standards.

Food safety

Most of the public address always discusses the issue of food safety in which debate occurs that a food derived from genetically engineered plant products that could involve the risk of allergenicity. Whereas staple food contain thousand of protein in which few are allergenic. It is reported that conventional breeding present additional protein diversity. However, crop improvement practice could develop the variation in protein composition and has proved for little effect on the allergenic potential. Nonetheless, allergens still are present in the diet. For example, when peanut and kiwi are present and introduce in those countries where they are not eaten normally. So in order to avoid the population sensitivity with these introduce protein, regulatory bodies in the world should pay attention towards allergenicity when they assess the food safety through modern biotechnology.

Environmental safety

One of the public concerned that genetically modified plants breeding along with their traits to other plants, ultimately developing so called "super weeds". While gene flow might has potential risk which is linked to transgenic crops. The gene flow phenomena is not new , all are familiar with this and believe that plant breeders are improving the yield and the principle of crops using these basic principles since many years defined under gene flow. Much research revealed the information on safe use of new agriculture traits and it could be used to evaluate the risk between gene flow and transgenic plants.

All the examples which have been discussed above are directly related to modern plant biotechnology and have been address or examined by the regulatory bodies in detail. Again, these examinations are only taking place in those countries where the products are grown and consumed. In resulting, there is significant chance of improving control process.