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Processes used in molecular biology are those related to DNA formation, replication and transmission. DNA which is a protein is used because it's a genetic material that is suitable for modification. The central dogma provides the basics for understanding this field of molecular biology. This dogma entails transcription of DNA to RNA which in turn undergoes the process of translation to form protein (Goldys 34).
Most of the activities taking place in molecular biology are quantitative. The study of the gene and its function has been of substantial help to molecular biology. Manipulation of molecular substances has been done by scientists since early 1960s, and through these procedures they have been able to characterize and successfully isolate the genetic substances. Procedures used in molecular biology include expression cloning which demonstrates one of the qualities of protein (You et al 11). One area that has evidenced the growth of biotechnology is under Agricultural biotechnology where gene engineering has taken center-stage.
2.0 Agricultural biotechnology
Living organisms which are modified are used to produce food products, transgenic crops and animals. This technology is used to counter attack the challenges arising in agriculture in the 21st century. There are defined bodies/ organizations considered with product vetting prior commercialization where the products engineered before are used by people within the locality. Agricultural industry is one of the beneficiaries of the new biotechnological technique. (You et al 27). There are many controversies surrounding the consumption of genetically modified organisms or produce and this places agriculture at the centre of this debate since it's largely involved in these techniques. There are many new countless agricultural products that have been produced through biotechnology which is most likely capable of changing people's lives.
2.1 Development of vaccines
Genetically modified crops have been engineered to carry infectious pathogens' antigenic protein responsible for initiating immunity when injected to victims with specified disease. This is being done because it's believed that oral vaccine is the solution to increased spread of diseases in the developing countries. Most crops used in the research procedures include vegetables and fruits. Tobacco plant has been used to grow anti-lymphoma vaccine by inserting it into the plant an RNA that is cloned from B-cells that are malignant or cancerous. The protein obtained from the tobacco plant is used for vaccination to boost patient's immune system against growth of cancerous cells (Goldys 45).
2.2 Antibiotics and Aesthetics
Since plants are very efficient and easy to use in biotechnology they are engineered to carry antibiotics that are very important for animal and human use. Initially, antibiotic proteins were included in livestock feed thus risking having animals and humans develop resistance to the specific strains. Plants are more preferable since one can produce large amount of protein with minimal cost (You et al 28). There are many advantages that come with using plants to produce antibiotics for instance the purification process is lessened while reducing the chances of contamination. In addition to biotechnological techniques being used to reduce and fight infections on both human and plants, genes engineering can also be used aesthetically. Genes that can be used to improve the physical characteristics of flowers like size, color and smell have been identified. These techniques have been employed to improve ornamental plants which include shrubs and other trees used for decoration (Thottappilly 45).
Industries involved with production of bio-fuels has greatly benefitted from agricultural industries since they supply them with plants used for fermentation. Feed stocks are used to refine bio-oil which includes ethanol and diesel. Techniques which can optimize enzymes and other engineering techniques are employed to develop feed stocks that are more efficient in making considerable amounts of safe-fuel. This is necessary since crops with high yielding capacity and large energy density are needed in order to reduce the cost of producing the bio-fuels needed.
2.3 Animal and plant breeding
Due to the disadvantages of the old techniques used for improving plant and animal quality in order to increase yield, biotechnology has been all-relieving to modern-farmers. This technology allows the changes that were very tiring and time consuming to be done within a very short time and efficiently. Specific gene promoters are used to introduce foreign genes in a plant by using methods that are assisted in selecting markers. It's the most efficient method in animal breeding with fewer abnormalities that are associated with genetic modified organisms. When one has wide knowledge of the genes present or absent it becomes easy to decide on the proceeding modifications (Thottappilly 20).
2.4 Pest resistant crops
For a long time Bacillus thuringiensis microbe was used on crops in order to kill the corn borer that was destroying plants. Biotechnology techniques are currently being used to engineer transgenic corn that is resistant to corn borer. The microbe Bacillus thuringiensis contains a protein that is toxic to insects and it is this protein that is inserted into plant crops through tissue-culture procedures. Plants which have been engineered include potato and cotton. This is more efficient since the toxic protein is not harmful to humans any longer. The emerging challenge is the resistance to the toxic gene by some strains of insects (Thottappilly 64).
Molecular biological techniques have been used to produce plants which are resistant to pesticides. This is very beneficial to farmers since they can spray crops with pesticides without the fear of damaging such crops. The technology being used is dubbed as roundup ready-method. Plants like soya beans have been modified using this technology making them resistant to glyphosate, a chemical used in killing weeds. Currently large scale farmers use several types of herbicides to kill weeds that reduce their yields (Goldys 46).
2.5 Nutrient supplementation
In the developing countries one of the major issues is poor health. As a result, the developed countries have been working smart in order to produce plants with additional nutrients aimed at improving health. This program has yielded fruits since plants with more nutrients have been genetically engineered in an attempt to generate hybrid species. Such foods are important in fighting diseases and reduction of malnutrition in children. Some of the food that has been genetically modified includes golden rice which has been engineered to contain vitamin A. The genes that were added to the rice through the molecular technique include proteins from a bacterium which has an ability to speed biochemical reactions in the rice as well as proteins found in daffodils (Bouchard et al 49).
Molecular techniques have been used to enrich arable soils by making them tolerant to harsh conditions such as drought and salinity. These have been made possible by altering crops which are planted in those kinds of soils. Some plants were found to contain genes that enable them to absorb sodium from the soil enabling them to survive in environments that has high salt concentration. Basically the process of transcription was used in creating plants that are tolerant to drought. Trials are being undertaken using rapeseed plants as well as corn in California, where these products are expected to be in the market some five years to come.
Goats have been genetically engineered to produce milk which contains spider silk used to produce strong fibers. This has increased the production of silk which led to much more research of finding out how threads can be produced from the silk. Currently this technology is not in use but there still some high anticipation for it coming-up in the near future. Genetic engineering is very essential if production of food is to be increased as well as crop productivity. Through this invention high yields have been experienced in places prone to low-productions. This has been essential in reducing food insecurities being experienced in the 21st century since there is enough food to feed the pollution available.
This technique has also been used to clean up ecosystems that have been polluted with heavy metals and fuel. Through tissue cultures farmers have been able to produce healthier crops which in return increases overall yield. It is possible to develop improved genotypes for nearly all existing organisms by employing DNA finger-printing technique as well as marker-assisted selection. These procedures have enabled scientists to discover new ways of characterizing and conserving our biodiversity. Currently there are many genes which have been isolated for use in genetic engineering (Bouchard et al 36).
Plants have been modified in order to make them tolerant to viruses. This is achieved by inserting a specific virus gene into the plant. Some plants manufacture some viral proteins that make them resistant to virus infections. The gene to be inserted into non-viral resistant plants was obtained from plants carrying the specific gene. For example some plants with such traits include papaya and squash. Squash that is resistant to two viral strains is now available. In our markets today, there are several types of tomatoes that have been engineered to delay ripening in order to reduce the risk of spoilage during transportation. Some qualities of genetically modified tomatoes include prolonged shelf-life as well as reduced softening making transportation less risky (Thottappilly 17).
2.6 Genetic engineering in livestock
Through genetic engineering a drug that increases milk production in animal has been produced. The drug in use is Bovine Growth Hormone (i.e. BGH) which was engineered from a bacterium. This drug is used by majority of US farmers to increase milk production. Still there other ongoing research endeavors in progress. Some on going research include engineering animals to produce lean meat. This practice has been done on pigs in a bid to engineer in producing 3 fatty acids. Also poultry have been engineered in order to make them resistant to avian diseases as well.
Though genetic engineering is important in modifying plants and animals in order for them to posses important traits that are necessary for their survival, it also posses some challenges. These challenges have raised debates on the safety of the genetically modified products. Due to the fears of the adverse effects that can result from using genetically modified organisms there are numerous research and developments which are done to measure their safety before releasing the products to the market. Because of the numerous researches that must be done on the products, biotechnology has become more expensive than has been anticipated (Bouchard 358). Nevertheless, Agricultural biotechnology has given forth positive fruits in containing inherent diseases, and undesirable animal/plant traits.
Claude Bouchard, Robert Malina and Louis, Perusse. Genetics and Fitness and Physical performance. New York: USA: Human Kinetics, 1997.
Ewa, Goldys. Fluorescence Application in Biotechnology and Life sciences. New Jersey USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.
Thottappilly George. Biotechnology: enhancing research on tropical crops in Africa. Ibadan, Nigeria: IITA, 1992.
You, Chongbiao, Zhangliang Chen and Young Ding. Biotechnology in Agriculture. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2003.