A Study On Agricultural Biotechnology Education Essay

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For the past 10,000 years humans associated with domesticate plants, selecting seeds of favoured forms, pick out unwanted types to produce each following generation. Plants constitute the main food resource for humans and animals. So it is necessary to improve crop quality and yield to feed the hunger world. Today this came to a big problem due to environmental damages and population explosion [1]. There has been a drastic increase in population ever since and it is around 6.5 billion in the starting of 2010. Each year millions of people are dying due to starvation and nutritional deficiencies. So many Asian and African countries are not getting the benefits of the 'green revolution' and 'gene revolution'. The polluted agricultural lands and the consequences of global warming affected the agricultural production. The yield lost in each year due to pests, insects and diseases is around 30% of the total production [2, 3]. So biotechnology promises to reduce the world hunger by creating new array of transgenic plants which are resistant to pests and diseases and provide more nutrition [3]. The food and agricultural organization (FAO) recognized that the genetic engineering has the ability to increase the agricultural production. Biotechnology offers a wide range of environmental benefits such as reduce pollution, development of perfect crops which has higher nutrition, reduced or nil pesticides, resistance to insects, more yield etc.[4].



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The transformation of agriculture started during the end of first half of twentieth century and it referred as Green revolution. The green revolution started in 1945 during this time Mexico imported wheat. After this Mexican government started working on the agricultural techniques. In 1964 they exported half million tons of wheat, the modern biotechnological techniques made Mexicans foot stable and this is also happened in so many other countries [5]. The green revolution decreased the world poverty in some extent. Now undeveloped countries need more applications of biotechnology, countries like India and China are still researching on new technologies but in the developed European countries are avoiding these techniques and considering as unnatural [3].

During the twentieth century conversional method produced and producing so many hybrids, which can provide more yield, stability of harvesting and farm income. But these conversional techniques don't preserve the gene pool. In the last 20 years biotechnology developed more and discovered new techniques for the stability and production. In animal biotechnology bovine somatatropin (BST) used to increase the milk production. In plant biotechnology so many new techniques arrived [5].

Conversional agricultural techniques are associated with modern genetic engineering. The plant tissue culture is the one of the major contribution of biotechnology in plant breeding. Via tissue culture we will able to produce many copies from a single plant part within a short time. The meristem culture will able to produce virus free plants. The plant tissue culture method helped for the conservation of so many medicinal plants. Another application of tissue culture is the selection of somoclonal variants with improved virus resistance [6]. The new molecular DNA technologies modify plants in different ways. Molecular level studies helped to produce agriculturally important virus resistant and virus free plants [7]. The cloning methods also gave a new phase to biotechnology. The new technologies in cloning help to prevent plant disease by deactivating the gene action. The findings suggest that the genetically modified micro organisms have the capacity to prevent the disease caused by the pathogens [7].

The genetic engineering methods are also employed in various animal species. Now it is possible to create animals with useful dairy product, meet, or fibre production. Most of the animal based experiments are primarily introduced in mouse and drosophila. Now these have been extended to the domestic farm animals. Genetic engineering is mainly used for the manipulation of fertilised egg and utters and manipulation of sperm and embryonic tissue. This facilitates the introduction of novel genes to the animals and provides more yield. Transgenic poultries, pig, sheep and cow are the examples for transgenic animals [8, 9]. The ability to alter the genome of animals by gene transfer is the major achievement of biotechnology. The animals having altered are known as transgenic animals. The transgenic animals are created by the introduction of small piece of known DNA in to the embryos. This will help the rapid introduction of new genes in to the livestock without any cross breeding [8]

Transgenic methodology has so many potential advantages. The practical applications in livestock's are improved milk production and composition, increased growth rate. It is important that the production capability of transgenic animals realised only when their true genital potential is attained.

The molecular study of Agrobacterium tumefaciens helped to produce transgenic plants. Using this technique many important genes were transferred to plants and it helped to get the high yield [10]. The different tools of genetic engineering made the gene transfer uncomplicated and plant manipulation easier. Gene banks and DNA libraries helped for the conservation and selection of variety of genes which facilitate special characters. Different microbes were used as vectors for the gene transfer [11].

In advanced industrial countries conventional agriculture system is following for the production. This allows the wide knowledge about the production techniques to grow crops, livestock and poultry. This method also helps to reduce the production cost and provide more yield to farmers [12]. There are some environmental problems associated with conventional agriculture method, but now they are trying to solve by using genetic engineering by the development of new methods for the diffusion of disease, insect resistant plants, drought resistant plants etc. And also biotechnology is working on to produce bio pesticides [12]. The environmental problems created by the chemical substance such as pesticides, herbicides, hormones and insecticides which used in the modern farming leads to the new thoughts in the production of bio pesticides and genetically modified plants. But their productions are restricted and under control. According to US food, agriculture and trade act in 1990 it should; "(a) satisfy food and fibre needs of humans, (b) enhance the quality of the environment and natural resources depends on the agriculture economy, (c) efficient use of non renewable resource and on farm resource, (d) sustain the economic viability of farm operations and (e) enhance the quality of life for the farmers and the society as a whole" [13].

The modern agricultural biotechnology focusing on genetically modified crops. So many researches are currently undergoing based on this. The genetically modified foods are the products of transgenic plants. These plants contains one or more genes from the another organism which is transferred by genetic engineering technologies [14]. According to Huttner et al "biotechnology is being used in almost food production system, and it offers more opportunities in agriculture than medicine" [4]. Apart from the food production biotechnology has been used to for the plant breeding and disease resistant. Most advanced commercially available plasticised are biotech products. The problem of pesticides is the introduction of "super weeds" and it will be difficult to control [2]. Genetically modified organisms are also used to control the pest and insects. Introduction of Bt-genes is the one of them and 17% of the total globally planted crops are Bt crops and its amount is very high in US. It is found that about 80% of the biotechnology researches are focused on non food based agricultural products such as cotton, tobacco, ornamental plants and medicinal plants [4].

It is found that use of biotech plants can reduce the plowing for control the weeds and this will lead to reduced use of diesel and decrease the pollution. This is also better for conservation of soil and water; reduce soil erosion and soil composition. The survey shows that the use of biotech crops saved around 441 million gallon of fuel which may result in the elimination of 10 billion pound carbon dioxide and this elimination is equal to removal of four million cars from the road. Thus the biotech crops has significant role in reducing the environmental pollution associated with agriculture production [2]. The genetically modified crops such as corn, soybean, and cotton are used for feeding livestock.

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The GM crops were introduced 15 years ago. GM crops indicate the genetic modification of plants to make it resistant to biotic stresses provide more yield. The main biotic stresses are pest and pathogens. Each year these factors reduce around 30% of the yield and in developing countries this may be higher due to climatic conditions. Weeds in the field compete with the crops for their nutrition and it will affect the yield. For this reason new GM crops were introduced to resist them. To avoid the insect attack and reduce the chemical insecticides GM technology introduced insect resistant plant. It is also help to reduce the environmental pollution [15]. In 2007- 90% of the agriculture area planted GM crops in six countries of north and south America and it is around 80% is in US, Brazil and Argentina. But in India and china they planted less than 3% only. But in the 27 countries of European Union they planted only 0.21% GM crops [16].

Present agricultural biotechnology status in Asia is amazing. Several Asian countries are currently following the uses of biotechnology in agriculture. The Chinese government gives high priority to biotechnology for improving food production and its quality in environmentally sustainable method. They are adopting the new genetic engineering methods for the crop production. Chinese introduced and planted new verities of wheat, rice, tomato, pepper, potato, papaya and tobacco and these crops are resistant to pest, herbicides and diseases. They approved around 50 verities of GM plants in last year's. India government is supporting the development of infrastructures in biotechnology. In 1980 they formed Department of biotechnology to promote the advantages of biotechnology in agriculture and medicine. The R&D of India developing a new generation of citrus, coffee, mangrove, and vanilla. The organisations in India such as 'M S Swaminathan research foundation' have developed bio-village for the growth of new incoming technologies in agriculture [17]

The Indonesian government has developed three National biotechnology centers to coordinate R &D in agriculture and medicine. In 1985 Pakistan started crop improvement using modern biotechnology. Now they are mainly concentrated on the improvement of rice and cotton. Philippines started the use of modern biotechnology by the creation of national institute of molecular biology and biotechnology. There also an increased use of modern biotechnology started in Thailand, Bangladesh, Singapore, Sri lanka and Vietnam. There are so many international agricultural research centres for the development of the new crops. International agricultural research canter (IARC's), international rice research institute (IRRI) are some of them [17].

Every technology can bring benefits and risks. This is also happened in the case of biotechnology. The risk of agricultural biotechnology got more publicity even biotechnology is also been used as a part of medicine and industry. The introduction of GMO has created a lot of controversy even it is not used for the production wide range of products. Then also the GMO technology is using widely. The argument is mainly focused on the herbicide and insecticide resistant plants which are more beneficial for farmers, seed producers and chemical companies. The insecticide resistant plants guaranteed 100% success, but in case the partial dosage in some insects may results in the formation of new mutants which will able to resist particular dosage. The pollination between the GM crops and wild crops may lead to the arrival of new genera, and wild verities may disappear from the environment. The introduction of antibiotic marker gene may result in the gene transfer. It is also noted that in the meat industry the routine feeding of animals lead to the high levels of antibiotics on them. It is observed that currently the biotechnology applications does not cause any harm to environment. But on the other hand it is worried about the GMO. The increased use of GMO may lead to higher amount of pesticide residues, genetic pollution, damage to beneficial insects, creation of super weeds and super pests, mutant viruses and bacteria [17, 12, 18, 4].

The 21st century being known as the century of biology and biology based industries promises to be powerful tools for the economy. It will become more powerful in industrialised countries and might be challenged by developing countries. Advanced biotechnology will revolutionise the agriculture and food industry. It is expecting that the consequences of genomics in the bio industry will be under control and biotechnology can reduce the world hunger in future.


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[1] Dominique Job, plant biotechnology in agriculture, Laboratoire mixte CNRS/INRA/Bayer CropScience (UMR 1932), Bayer CropScience, 14-20, rue Pierre-Baizet, 69269, Lyon cedex 9, France

[2] www.bio.org, agricultural biotechnology- delivering benefits to farmer's consumers and the environment.

[3] www.cei.org, agricultural biotechnology

[4] Jeremy Hall, Sarah Crowther, Biotechnology: the ultimate cleaner production technology, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RF, UK

[5] Norman E. Borlaug, "the green revolution revisited and the road ahead" - Nobel peace prize lecture

[6] Low cost opening for tissue culture technology in developing countries. Proceedings of a Technical Meeting organized by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture

[7] Graham S. Warren, Pious Thomas, Maria-Teresa Herrera, S.J. Lindsey Hilland Robert F. Terry .The use of plant cell cultures for studying virus resistance, and enhancing the production of virus-resistant and virus-free plants, 26-30 ,August 1991

[8] http://www.bio.org/foodag/animals/biotechanimalagoverview_ip.pdf

[9] http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10418&page=34

[10] K.P pauls, plant biotechnology for crop improvement Department of Crop Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2JV1

[11] http://www.scitopics.com/Advances_in_plant_genetic_engineering.html

[12] Thomas A. Lyson, Advanced agriculture technologies and sustainable agriculture, TRENDS in biotechnology, vol.20, May 2002

[13] Biotechnology Information Center, National Agricultural Library,Beltsville, Maryland USA, http://www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Topic/AgrEnv/Biotech/Bibliographies/ sustain.ag

[14] http://www.greenpeace.org.uk

[15] Environmental impact of genetically modified crops Ferry. N, Gatehouse A.M.R, Newcastle University, UK

[16] http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/food-sovereignty/2009/gmcrops2009full.pdf

[17] Agricultural biotechnology, poverty reduction and food security , Published and printed by the Asian Development Bank ,P.O. Box 789, 0980 Manila, Philippines

[18] Christine McCollum, PhD, Charles Benbrook, PhD, Lori Knowles, llb, bcl, ma, llm, Susan Roberts, jd, ms, rd, ld "Application of Modern Biotechnology to Food and Agriculture: Food Systems Perspective"