Role of Agricultural Biotechnology in Food Security

Biotechnology is the application of techniques to improve plant and animals by using biological organisms to enhance their value. Agricultural Biotechnology involves applications to Agriculture. It involves modification in living organisms by genes manipulation. World population is increasing day by day with the advancement in and technology medicine. People are living longer lives and world population is increasing. To fulfill their nutritional requirement, more nutritious food is required. During 1990-92 the population of Sub-Saharan Africa was 500 million and during 2010 it was increased up to 874 million. The population of South Asia during 1990-92 was 1138 million which was increased up to 1617 million during 2010. Moreover it is predicted that up to 2050, population will increase over 10 billion people. How to supply enough food that man doesn’t suffer a world famine. Due to regular need of land for man’s living, it is relatively harder to expand farimg land in future. Then the only way towards the solution of this problem is to enhance the production techniques so as to increase the production to meet the requirements. Due to Agricultural Biotechnology, number of hungry people is declined. This was made through the introduction of new more resistant and improves cultivars with more intensive but precisely ues of inputs as was in Green Revolution. The benefits of Agricultural Biotechnology are as;

Due to this technique, the overall production has increased as it involves improved and resistant cultivars against pests as well as diseases. The introduction of microorganism, Bacillus Thuringiensis into the maize genome, formulates a BT Maize crop which is resistant to corn borers by producing Cry1Ab protein. In brinjal, the major problem is shoot and fruit borer which attacks all aerial parts specially friut and shoot. To avoid this damage, a protein Cry1Ac is introduced, to form BT Brinjal which has resistant against lepidopteran. During 1990, work on transgenic cotton was started to avoid the attack of boll worms. Bacillus Thuringiensis was incorporated to develop BT Cotton which reduce the cost of insecticides and also incease the yield upto 35 percent. Many crops have been engineered to resist herbicide appliction to increase better production. For example, Tobacco have been resistant to Bromoxynil herbicide and many other crops have been resistant  to the glyphosate herbicide. Blight resistant potato was a dominent disease in potato. Then a gene Rpi-blb1 and Rpi-blb2 was introduced taken from Fusarium oxysporum to resist this disease.

Some of the abiotic stress resistant plant engineered by biotechnology are as;

Scientists have developed drought resistant wheat, soybean and maize cultivars with the inoculation of a gene HAHB4 isolated from sunflower.  Researchers have noticed that plants have a naturally substance glycinbetain resistant to salts.  Genetically, modified tomatoes having glycinbetain are more resistant to salts. Agricultural Biotachnology also helps in improving nutritional value of food to accomplish hidden hunger. Rice provides 80 ercent or more of the calories reqiure by a person each day. Blindness is caused by Vit. A deficiency. Golden Rice was engineered to accomplish this deficiency, created by rice transforming with two beta-carotene biosynthesis genes: phytoene synthase and crtl from the soil bacterium Erwinia uredovora. Bet-carotene (precursor of vit. A) is present in the endosperm which is edible part of the grain. Frost damages tomato crop. To prevent this damage, an antifreeze  gene from cold water fish was inoculant in tomato plant. An enzyme Chymosin, obtained from bacteria, helps in preservaation of cheese for a longer period. It replaces calf rennet with chymosin and now mostly used in manufacturing inndustries. It has reduced 50 percent cost and high yield efficiency.  Flavor can be improved by enhancing the role of enzymmes that transform the aroma precursor into aroma compounds. For example in water-melon and pepper. Sccientists have identified and modified growth hormone gocerning gene in tilapia, increasing yield and greater fish protein in local diets.

Apart from all these benefits of Agricultural biotechnology, some risks are also there as it causes some problems in animals as well as in human due to poor management. For example in 2000, a maize variety cleared for animal consumption was also found in human consumption. A major concern from Agri. Biotechnology is the introduction of allergens and toxins in otherwise safe foods. Biotechnology also causes an introduction of an undesired gene which is not suitable for health. Scientists maintain that when transgenic crops will be introduced at field level, it will causes undesirable changes on non-target species. For example pollen from BT corn may kill caterpillar of monarch butterfly. It is also important to note that insects may develop resistant against herbicides when transgenic crops exposed to field level. Agricultural Biotechnology represents unique science applications that are used to fill the gap in nutritional requirements of the society. Biotechnology, as a genetic engineering is beneficial for society if carefully managed and ethically used.

written by.

Dr. Nadeem Akbar, Muhammad Waseem Abbas, Muhammad Ishfaq, Ali Zohaib

Agro-biology Laboratory, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38040, Pakistan



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