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There are several features has been improved in plants either by themselves (evolution) or humankind to ensure they can become suitable as crop plant. The examples of features include pest resistance, cold resistance, nutrition addition and salt tolerance. Improvement can be making via selective breeding by farmers, genetic engineering and evolution. Selective breeding is a traditional way and has been practiced since many years ago till now. It can be done by crossing the good, quality of plants and only the best progeny will be selected for the next crossing. This process is continuous to ensure that the features are well-improved. It takes long period to observe the results as the farmers should wait the progeny to growth. Next, genetic engineering is a modern way to improve the features of plant. It is extension of traditional plant breeding and can be created using recombinant DNA technology in a lab by inserting desirable trait into the plant. The effects on the plant can be seen in short period, but the researcher still arguing about the long-term effects. Lastly, the other way of improvement is evolution of the plant which is affected by environment. The plants always try to adapt themselves into the environment and pass on the favorable genes to the next offspring. Only plant which has favorable trait can survive better and produce large amount of offspring compared to the others plants within same species.
First of all, the feature that has been upgrade is pest resistance. There is researcher found that, there is estimation state that seven percent or 40 million tons of corns are unmarketable due to insect damage (Novartis, 2000) and the yield cotton had decreased over a quarter billion dollars because of problem associated to the pest (6). Pest resistance helps the plant to avoid insect damage such as European Corn Borer (ECB) in corn plant and pest like tobacco budworms, cotton bollworms, and pink bollworms in cotton plant (6). It can be done by inserting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene in the plant via genetic engineering method. Bt is lethal to insect larvae and results the corn enables to produce its own pesticide (Whitman, D.B, 2000). Bt plays it role by rupture the intestine of pest and related organism when it is ingested, and this damages the cell membrane and stopping the larva in tracks. The pest normally dies within two to three days (Smith, 2010). Introduction of Bt genes helps a lot as the plants have longer season protection, minimize the use of insecticide which may preventing algae blooming in meantime.
Next, low temperature is a major environmental stress for plants and commonly the plants which grow in this condition have evolved and undergo adaption. They has a built-in non-toxic version which allows cells to "super cool" at freezing point and even when ice forming within some plants, they still enables to survive ice crystal damage. In same time, the researchers also create cold resistance as a way to ensure them surviving better as crop plant. The scientist applies the knowledge of genetic engineering to produce cold resistance plant in tobacco. The scientist have introduce chloroplast [omega)-3 fatty acid desaturase gene (the fad7 gene) isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana. (7) As consequence, the young seedling or vegetative shoot tips can be stored at extreme temperature for a long period without facing any problems like losing vigor or high mortality. The tobaccos also can growth well after long exposure to cold acclimation and producing the leaves green and healthy. In contrast, the plant without this feature may exhibit leaf damage, loss of turgidity, shoot collapse and even death (8). Hence, cold weather is not an obstacle for the plant to growth well as the plants have adapted themselves to cold environment and cold tolerance feature has been created.
Lastly, the effort of humankind in improving the feature not only limited to create the plant survives better, but also increases the quality of the nutrition too. As example, soil oil is very useful in food industries. Unfortunately, soy oil requires hydrogenation to increase its stability and this will forming trans fatty acids which is associated to coronary health risk. The researcher has developed healthier oil by modifying fatty acids of oilseed via breeding. Their aim is to replace hydrogenated oil within the oil remain stable but excluding trans fat. Then, the researcher also uses genetic engineering so that the soy oil contain greater stability and flexibility in food application and contain less 20% saturated fat than traditional soybean. In addition, there is also nutrition improvement in tomato. The scientist have expressed gene from snapdragon sin tomato to grow purple tomatoes high in health-protecting anthocyanins using biotechnology tool. As result, there are many advantages can be derive in "2 in 1 fruit" (tomato + snapdragon ïƒ tomato) such as against certain cancer, age-related degenerative disease, anti-inflammatory activity, hinder obesity and many more.
As conclusion, there are many improvement has been make in plant to develop the plants become suitable as crop plants via selective breeding, genetic engineering and evolution. Nowadays, genetic engineering is preferable for human to improve the features as it give many advantages and the result can be observe in short time. However, the impact of this method has been debated all around the world. It gives many advantages to plant and people, however people are worrying either it can give negative effects such as allergicity in human, genes transferred to non-target organisms and the probability of insect to develop rapidly resistance to certain insecticides. Improvements the features in plants are vital in either way to make them suitable as crop plants and arise the quality of yield. Hence, people should always find the way to improve it continuously so that many more advantages can be discovered while the bad impact can be minimized or avoided.