Quiz 6: Plant Biotechnology

Biology

The food that is obtained from genetically modified organisms is known as genetically modified food or crop. The process of transgenesis is used to modify a plant's genes and produce a transgenic plant which produces products such as corn, soybean, and cotton. These genetically modified crops are faster to grow, insect resistant, and provide extra nutrition. Such genetically modified cannot be supplied in market without the approval regulatory agencies. It is mandatory for such crops to undergo extensive testing in order to confirm that they do not pose any harm to humans or environment. However, GM foods that are used for animal feeds or do not require ingestion have been approved by the concerned authorities. But the crops meant for human consumption have to undergo testing before coming into the market. Labeling is another method by which a person might know the genetic modification in a specific crop. However, in the USA and Canada, genetic labeling is voluntary. The label on genetically modified crops is not necessary which indicates that biotech crops are safe to use and consume. However, there has been efforts going on in the United States for labeling food that are derived from genetically modified crop plants. And labeling does not necessarily mean that genetically modified crops are dangerous to use. The labeling of food is driven by other factors that are given below. • Perception of people that the food is unnatural and hence may prove potentially harmful. • Misconception of people that GM crops are generally untested.

Agricultural biotechnology is the area of biotechnology, which involves the application of biotechnological techniques to agriculture. It helps in improving agriculturally important organisms by proper selection and breeding. For instance, the development of disease-resistant wheat varieties obtained by cross-breeding results in the formation of new and improved varieties of wheat plants. Genetically modified crops are obtained by applying the technique of genetic engineering to form a new variety. Agricultural biotechnology has also provided as a platform technology for countries that are suffering from global food crisis. Some of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to the environment are given below. Reduction in the use of pesticide The use of pesticide for protecting the crops from harmful pests results in intake of pesticides by humans. The World Health Organization has estimated that there have been approximately 500,000 pesticide poisoning cases in the year 1994. Genetically modified crops are manufactured in such a way that they naturally develop pest resistance and therefore do not require the use of pesticide. This helps in reducing pesticide poisoning and thereby protecting the environment as well. More sustainable farming practice Agricultural biotechnology also helps in reducing unwanted activities such as soil erosion, increased water usage, and reduction in greenhouse gases (thereby reducing global warming). For instance, genetically engineering cotton in India, known as Bt cotton (obtained from Bacillus thuringiensis ) has helped the farmers to reduce insecticide use by half. Hence, it has helped the country to double its cotton yield and thereby becoming a major cotton exporter. Increased productivity Agriculture biotechnology has contributed to increased food security and more nutritious crops. For instance, genetically engineered rice helps in providing additional vitamin A, whose deficiency has affected almost 250 million children worldwide. Increased crop production helps to cope with the increased demand and also ensuring environmental sustainability.

Agricultural biotechnology benefits consumers in many ways, such as by reducing undesirable qualities like saturated fats from cooking oils. Such oils are now either low in linoleic acid or high in oleic acid, which makes it a healthier product. It also helps in eliminating the allergens from the crops. It has contributed to increased food security and more nutritious crops. For instance, genetically engineered rice helps in providing additional vitamin A, the deficiency of which has affected almost 250 million children worldwide. Increased crop production helps to cope with the increased demand and also ensures environmental sustainability. Genetically engineered fruits and vegetables are produced in such a way that they remain rich in antioxidants and beneficial enzymes.