Uses Of Biotechnology In Modern Times Biology Essay


As we walk through the history of human being. We can see that in the Paleolithic era, our ancestors have used stone as a tool for various purposes, which was the beginning of discoveries and invention. The history of technological development from the use of stone, bone and fire to the recent claim by Craig Venture that they have created first synthetic bacterial cell (Gibson et al., 2010), is awesome. One of the greatest inventions of the present time in the field of biotechnology is genetic modification (GM) technology.

Since long we are using the science in day to day life, use of bacteria in the production of curd/yogurt, use of yeast for the fermentation in the production of alcohol. Louis pasture (1822>1895) was the first scientist who worked extensively on the fermentation techniques and microorganism, he has created the foundation for the biotechnology research (Manchester, 1995); hence he is known as the father of biotechnology. While the term biotechnology was first time described by Karl Ereky in his book Biotechnologie der Fleisch-, Fett- und Milcherzeugung im landwirtschaftlichen Grossbetriebe (Biotechnology of Meat, Fat and Milk Production in an Agricultural Large-Scale Farm) in 1919 (Ereky, 1919) published in Berlin. The dictionary meaning of biotechnology is >the exploitation of biological processes for industrial and other purposes, especially the genetic manipulation of micro-organisms for the production of antibiotics, hormones, etc> (Oxford, 2010). In broad sense biotechnology is the applied branch of modern science in which the modern engineering techniques are used to understand, develop and enhancement of the biological process of living organisms from microorganism to human being, for the various purposes in the field of medicine, agriculture, food science, space research and recent biometric security. The modern branch of biotechnology which has generated vast debate among the scientist as well as the public is the genetic modification (GM) technology.

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1.3 GM technology

The cell is the basic component of the life. The cell carries the genetic material in the form of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which contains number of genes, who are responsible for the functions of an organism (Nobelprize, 2010). The GM technology is the process of transferring a part of recombinant DNA (gene) from one organism in to the other organism, or deactivation of specific gene by using sophisticated modern techniques (FDA, 2010; GMO Compass, 2010a). The application of GM technology is to create the new desirable attributes in an organism, which do not occur naturally and is not possible with the help of available breeding techniques. The synonyms for genetic modification technology are gene technology, genetic engineering and genetic manipulation. The organisms produced with the help of GM technology are the genetically modified organisms (GMO>s) (WHO, 2010). The GMO>s can be plants, animals and microorganisms. The introduction of GMO>s in the fields of medicine helps to improve treatment potential and production of vaccines, in agriculture helps to develop high yield variety, insect-pest resistant variety and improvements in the nutritive value of foods (WHO, 2010).

1.3 Genetically modified plants and foods

The plants produced with the help of GM technology are the genetically modified plants (WHO, 2010). The GM plants can describe, as are transgenic crop or biotech crop. In 1994 the first commercially produced plant with the help of GM technology was tomato (Brookes and Barfoot, 2005; GMO Compass, 2010a). In tomato, plant the gene responsible for the production of polygalacturonase enzyme, which enhances the ripening of tomato was inactivated (GMO Compass, 2010a), the implication is that it prolongs the ripening of tomato and increase the life span of tomatoes after the harvesting. The tomatoes from this plant are the GM tomatoes and derived food products from these tomatoes are the genetically modified foods (WHO, 2010). In a cotton crop, a gene (Cry 1 Ac) which is responsible for the production of toxin for the insect pest cotton bollworm is isolated from the soil Bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and transferred in to the cotton genome to reduce the losses from pest infestation (GMO Compass, 2010b), this cotton popularly known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton. The other commercially grown GM crops around the world are maize, soybean, squash, papaya, sugar beet, alfalfa and canola (James, 2009).

1.4 GM foods: Global scenario

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The commercial cultivation of GM plants was started in US with the cultivation of GM tomato in 1994 (Brookes and Barfoot, 2005), since then the global area under GM crops is increasing with a fast pace over the time. The total area under GM crops is 134 million hectares in 25 nations (9 developed and 16 developing), the worldwide distribution of area is as USA 64.0 million hectares, Brazil 21.4, Argentina 21.3, India 8.4, Canada 8.2, China 3.7, Paraguay 2.2, South Africa 2.1 and rest 2.7 in other countries, while Europe report only 94,750 hectares (James, 2009). The annual growth rate since 1996 is about 7% increase in area and the highest area is under soybean crop followed by cotton, maize and canola (James, 2009). The GM crops are dominating the conventional cultivars, in 2009, around 77% of the global soybean production was from GM soybean, 49% of the cotton production was from Bt cotton, 26% of the maize production was from GM maize and 21% of the canola production was from GM canola (James, 2009). All the GM crops growing nations have shown increasing trend for the area under GM crops, while only Europe reports 12% reduction in area for year 2009 as compared with the year 2008(James, 2009). Moreover around five European nations (France, Greece, Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg) have already banned cultivation of GM crops and recently Germany has joined them (GMO Safety, 2009; Greenpeace, 2009).