Advantages And Disadvantages Of Biotechnology Biology Essay


The objective purpose of this assignment is the, familiarization of the connection between the biotechnology and agriculture; bringing on the contribution of the biotechnology science to agriculture. On the way to assess the specific contribution, citations of positives and negative effects are allocated as well as thoughts and worriers regarding the future of the association between biotechnology and agriculture.

Ever since agriculture was developed, before 10 000 years (Sample et al .,2007), humans were attempting to invent new crops as well as and new techniques in order to make the production much more easy.

Over the effort of the humanity to produce the best quality products as possible and in more quantities, new technologies and techniques were introduced allowing agriculture for further development. Standing on this piece of evidence it is a fact that most of the technological innovations where integrated to the agricultural science over the last 200 years.(Krimsky et al.,1996). On this improvements of the agricultural science it is appropriate to include the fertilizers, the plant breeding , the mechanization of the procedure as well as the management of the plant enemies using plant protection products (e.g herbicides, pesticides, fungicides).(Krimsky et al., 1996)

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However the discovery of recombinant DNA back in the early seventies opened a new era in modern agriculture introducing biotechnology into the field ,allowing the scientists to develop novel ideas of innovations in food production.(). As biotechnology is defined according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, "any technological application uses biological systems, living organisms or their derivatives create or modify products for specific use »(Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992). This definition includes medical and industrial applications and tools and techniques used in agriculture and food production (FAO, 2004). Among the best known applications, is the creation of genetically modified foods, cloning the sheep Dolly, the complete sequencing of the human genome and the developments in stem cell research. Like all technologies, so the Biotechnology is associated with known and unknown risks and threats. That in itself is a "food source" for the media to the production of stories that attract readers (Gaskell et al., 2003).

Benefits that may occur with the usage of genetic modified organisms had to do with several values that the humanity has set as priority objectives. Moreover the supporters of the agriculture biotechnology state that with the usage of GMOs the role of the sustainable environment is bounded; due to the fact that the main target is the reducing of the usage of pollutants such as pesticides and herbicides.

An extra fact that is settled is that the population of the earth is about 6 billion; and with the possibility that there is a continuous trend for further increase. Indicative, it is expected that over the next 50 years the world's population will be doubled. With this fact, it is remarkable to declare that the humanity has to ensure that the quantities of food that will be produced ought to be adequate in order to feed the entire population of the earth. Perhaps this will be a huge challenge, whereas the agricultural sciences have the great responsibility. Standing on these factors; the supporters of genetically modified products, have highlighted a numeral benefits that may humanity obtain from their use.

The Genetically Modified Organisms, in view of the fact that they have been introduced a gene from another organism, they are able to acquire properties compared with the natural plants as they have the ability to confer resistance to various biotic and abiotic factors such as resistance to various plant protection products from herbicide and pesticide as well as salinity drought conditions.

With the most usual method in conventional agriculture to protect the crops from pest insects to be spraying the plants with different chemical insecticides; have a lot of bad consequences. Even if the use of chemical insecticides is prudential spray or forced; the usual results of the non-rational usage of the chemical pesticides by farmers, lead to the fait accompli, which usual have to do with the huge ecological consequences. This method comprises negative effects on the environment and to the ecological balance. Apart from the harmful insects to crops, the chemical pesticides may destroy many other species of insects which they might be consider as beneficial as well as natural enemies to the pests. The consequences result in a genuine ecological disruption. Furthermore, the excessive use of insecticides may create resistance of the insects so that to meet those needs is even what harmful. Additionally most chemical insecticides have toxic effects even for humans, with residues of pesticides that may possibly end up through food chains. On this aspect, biotechnology has given a very good solution; deriving plants which have the power to react autonomously as "bio insecticides". For this purpose, was isolated a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis which can encode a protein with a natural insecticide action.(Pentheroudakis). This protein is a δ-endotoxin and has toxic effects in an environment with pH 7,5 to 8,which can be observed in insects and not in the stomach of man. The certain bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is used as a biological insecticide for many years, and is grown in bioreactors and then can be sprayed on crops in order the plants to have the appropriate protection from the pests. This solution is considered environmentally friendly since it excludes the use of hazardous chemicals and pesticides and does not lead to adverse health and environmental (standards 1999, deMaagd 1999). But also apart from its fuction as a solution , it is also considered as non an economic solution since of the fact that Bacillus thuringiensis has a limit time of life and that's why it has have repeated sprays.(Penteroudakis) .Gene technology made possible the transformation of the particular gene which can produce the δ-endotoxin in plants; enabling plants to be protected from the destructive action of certain insects such as Lepidoptera. There are several strains of Bacillus thuringiensis and each strain produces a different toxin, which acts in a particular species of insects (Estruch et al, 1996). This ensures the plants resistance to certain insect species by introducing a particular gene (the genes are called genes Bt). One of the applications of Bt producing plants is to resist the European corn borer, which is the main enemy pest of the U.S. corn crop and also responsible for damages cost $1 billion annually (Huang et al, 1999).  According to the company Monsanto, the production of transgenic Bt crops reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 1 million litters per year.

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The nematode worms, as soil organisms can cause serious damages to the crops. Parasitic nematodes can create serious trouble at a wide variety of plants and are responsible for significant crop losses. Also the eggs survive in the soil under adverse conditions for many years. Another thing that has to be concern is that it is extremely difficult to militate with parasitic nematodes particularly after the withdrawal of methyl bromide.

With the contribution of biotechnology scientists found that various plants are resistant to nematode worms. For the resistance of certain genes are responsible which have been isolated. An example is the gene Gro1 potato, which confers resistance to Globodera rostochiensis. This has opened the way for the possible introduction of these genes into crops to address the challenge of the filamentary.(Jung et al,1998)

Crop plants genetically modified to withstand very powerful and widely used herbicides, can help to reduce environmental impact of the widespread use 

herbicides. One example is the creation of GM soya from the company Monsanto, which is not affected by the herbicide Roundup ®,  product of the same company 


up_ready_soybeans.asp).  The resistance of plants against viral diseases, fungi and bacteria will improve the performance of the fields.

 The company Monsanto released on the market in 1996, the genetically modified soybean, which is resistant to the widely used herbicide Roundup. The genetically modified soybean was introduced the bacterial gene CP4-EPSPS that produces an enzyme resistant to the action of the herbicide. The Roundup suppresses the activity of natural plant EPSPS enzyme and destroy the plants. Genetically modified plants, however, producing a "resistant" enzyme is not affected by the action of Roundup. 

The genetically modified soya has caused a storm of reactions in Europe. Soybeans are particularly important because its derivatives are used in many processed foods such as soya lecithin used in the production of chocolates and baking. In 1998 one third of total U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified, while in 1999 more than half [Mitten et al, 1999]. 

Another possible benefit of the usage of biotechnology in agriculture, is the possible creation in the future of seeds resistant to cold (the introduction of the gene of antifreeze protein from fish Antarctica), in salinity or drought, which will allow 

crop plants in soils inhospitable to date indicative (Zhang and Blumwald, 2001). 

And the contribution of biotechnology does not stop here .It is possible the creation in the future, seeds and crops with high nutritional value (Ye et al., 2000) which will allow for better nutrition children in the Third World.One good paradigm to support this  Almost half the world's population eats rice (Oryza sativa L.), at least once a day

(IRRI undated). Rice is the staple food among the world's poor, especially in Asia and partsof Africa and South America. It is the primary source of energy and nutrition for millions.Thus, improving the nutritional quality of rice could potentially improve the nutritionalstatus of nearly half the world's population, particularly its children. Commodity ricecontains about 7% protein, but some varieties, notably black rice, contain as much as 8.5%(Food and Agriculture Organization 2004). The most limiting amino acid in rice is lysine.Efforts to increase the nutritional value of rice target protein content and quality along

with key nutrients often deficient in rice-eating populations, such as vitamin A and iron.The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, is a primary center for riceresearch and development of improved varieties.

In 1999, Dr. Momma and colleagues at Kyoto University, Japan, reported a geneticallyengineered rice having about 20% greater protein content compared with control rice (Momma et al. 1999). Transgenic plants containing a soybean gene for the protein glycinin contained 8.0% protein and an improved essential amino acid profile compared with 6.5%protein in the control rice.

Also the production potential in the future of edible vaccines and drugs 

in potatoes and tomatoes (Daniell et al., 2001). Plants such as poplar, can the genetic modification to used for phytoremediation contaminated by heavy metals in soils (Rugh, 2004).

Apart from the advantages that biotechnology can donate to the agriculture sciences; there are and a lot of factors that as scientists and as consumers we have to be aware. There are ethical factors and other parameters that have to mostly with the environmental subjects that have to be in mind. Nearly all have expressed their concern about GM food and  the possible effects on health and safety of humans in 

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environment, economic situation of farmers and the poor of the world making agriculture one of the few, powerful companies: environmental activist organizations (such as Greenpeace, the Network against GMOs, the GMWatch), religious organizations, citizens groups sensitized (such as the Organic Consumer Association), researchers and scientists (such as ETCgroup, the Institute of Science in Society, by The American Society of Environmental Medicine, the Union of Concerned Scientists).

 Experiments and studies have identified a number of risks associated with the use of GM foods. Environmental hazards that they might derived is firstly the challenge of unintended harm to other species. As an example of this; laboratory studies have 

shown that pollen from B.t. GM corn caused high rates of mortality in the larvae of the Monarch butterfly. (Losey etal., 1999) 

The possible reduction of biodiversity, is another threat of the GM crops against the environment. The widespread use of GM crops may lead to reduced biodiversity in neighboring crops GM ecosystem. Because GM products are likely to have 

competitive advantage over its natural wild varieties of plants, the latter may not be able to survive with its attendant reduction or extinction of wild varieties (Conner et al., 2003, Vacher et al., 2004). The GM crops can be fatal for others 

organizations that share the ecosystem, as species of birds (Watkinson et al., 2000). 

The Horizontal gene transfer is another thing that worries the scientific world regarding the usage of GMOs. The introduction of exotic species into new 

environments can cause extensive and irreversible destruction through the "horizontal transfer of genes, transport ie genes among related organisms, and microbes in or 

mammalian cells (unlike the "vertical transmission" is the transfer genes from one generation to the next). The transfer and integration these genes would result in genetic modification agencies beyond the estimates of researchers. Such 'transfers' 

can lead eg to create "super weeds" (literature Review Ho and Cummnis, 2008). 

General health problems in animals is another think that we have to be aware. A variety of studies in animals suggest that consumption of GM foods can cause serious health problems such as infertility, hormonal dysfunction, accelerated aging, 

dysfunction of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, problems in the regulation of insulin, cell labeling and protein synthesis and changes in the structure of the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal (Ewen and Pustzai, 1999, Finamore et al., 

2008, Malatesta et al., 2008, Kilik and Akay, 2008, Kroghsbo et al., 2008). 

Another object that we have to have in mind is allergies, which is the biggest, so far, side effects of GM foods  and is likely to increase the incidence of dangerous allergies. Many people and especially children are allergic to edible plants such as peanuts, an allergy which can lead death because of some proteins produced by them. Projects to increase the nutritional value of soybeans in the introduction to genome of a gene from the Brazilian peanut abandoned when research showed that the transgenic soy can promote allergic reactions to people predisposed (Nordlee et al., 1996). There evidence that the genetically modified plant products are even higher allergenic potential than conventional plants. 

Several studies have been reported in the literature, suggesting that the process of genetic modification may increase the allergen potential of plants. For example, levels of inhibitor trypsin-allergenic agent of soybean - are 27% higher in GM soy. Also, the Bt toxin in GM corn may trigger allergic immune response since it contains 

sequences that match EN identified allergens (literature review Smith, 2007). Scandal had caused case of Bt corn Starlink ™ of Aventis, which grown in the U.S. from 1998 to feed and industrial purposes and not for human consumption because of concerns of scientific staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection that can cause allergic reactions. In 2000, modified corn Starlink ™ s put into tacos and another 300 food products containing corn in various parts of world, making visible the gaps that existed in the management of possible risks from the use of GM (Bucchini and Goldman, 2002).

Finally  A key argument of the proponents of GM crops, large production and distribution companies modified seeds and lion scientists, is the largest agricultural performance of biotechnology crops, an argument which appears to be rebutted by the recent. Research the Union of Concerned Scientists in which genetically 

modified crops ultimately enhance the appearance of resistant herbicides weeds thus reducing the production and leading to smaller crops (Gurian-Sherman, 2009). In addition, as mentioned previously, the GM seed moving is patented and in future will also be sterilized causing billions of poor farmers to buy expensive seeds each 

time with disastrous results (Whitman, 2000).

The application of genetic engineering resulted in the creation of genetically modified organisms resistant pathogens. This became possible to transfer resistance genes, especially with the help of Ti plasmid of Agrobacterium tumefasiens, in crop plants of great economic importance, such as corn, soybeans, cotton, tobacco, oilseed The most commonly used gene is the Bt gene coding for the production of a toxin able to counteract the harmful insects on crops. The isolation of the gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and the introduction of a plant species resulted in the creation of a broad class of transgenic plants resistant to attacks of insects, Bt plants. The cultivation of Bt plants have the advantage of avoiding the use of chemical pesticides, which contain toxic and hazardous substances. It is also important to create GM plants resistant to nematodes and herbicides, particularly in widely-used herbicide Roundup. 

The cultivation of transgenic plants but can cause various environmental problems. This is the transfer of genes to plants or weeds through pollen and thus creating heat-parasites, prevalence through natural selection of resistant strains of insects to the toxin Bt, the unexpected effect of Bt insect toxin safe for agriculture and the possible abuse the creation of herbicide-resistant plants on them. 

There is no doubt that the establishment and cultivation of genetically modified plants will not only continue but probably will in future become the dominant form of farming. The attitude of scientists, especially those related to environmental protection, towards GMOs should be responsible and critical. The new research data, the largest observation time, economics and the comparison of the potential risks with the multiple benefits will help shape a scientifically informed view on the impact of GMOs into the environment.