The biotechnology offers a possible solution to many problems affecting agricultural production in developing countries. For example, biotechnologically derived solutions to unfavorable biotic and abiotic conditions that are built into a plant’s genotype can reduce the use of agrochemicals and water, thus promoting sustainable yields.
Factors such as climate change or the small amount of land suitable for agriculture lead to biotechnology being proposed as a solution for a more sustainable agriculture that can face global challenges.
In addition, advances in science and technology are key to ensuring sufficient healthy and affordable food. The modern bioscience offers tools such as plant genome editing to boost agriculture. Therefore, it is important to work together with the brightest minds to contribute to sustainable agriculture.
Application of biotechnology in agriculture
In the field of agriculture, the applications of biotechnology are countless. Some of the most important are:
- Resistance to herbicides. It is based on the transfer of resistance genes from bacteria and some plant species, such as petunia. This has made plants like soybeans resistant to glyphosate, glufosinate in canola seed and bromoxynil in cotton.
- Resistance to pests and diseases. Thanks to biotechnology, it is possible to obtain crops that protect themselves based on the synthesis of proteins or other substances that have an insecticidal nature. This type of resistance is based on the transfer to plants of genes encoding Bt proteins of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, present in almost all soils in the world, which confer resistance to insects, especially to lepidopterans, coleopterans and dipterans.
- Improvement of nutritional and organoleptic properties. Knowing plant metabolism allows us to improve and introduce some different characteristics. In tomatoes, for example, it was possible to improve the texture and consistency by preventing the ripening process, incorporating a gene that inhibits the formation of pectinase, an enzyme that is activated during the aging of the fruit and that causes the breakdown of the cell wall and the loss of consistency of the fruit.
- Resistance to abiotic stress. The bacteria Pseudomonas syringae and Erwinia herbicola, whose natural habitats are plants, are largely responsible for frost and cold damage in many plants by facilitating the production of ice crystals using a protein that acts as a crystallization nucleus. Separating the involved gene allows us to obtain colonies of these bacteria which, after being inoculated in large quantities into the plant, provide greater resistance to low temperatures.
An example of the role of biotechnology in soybean production
Biotechnology has been adopted by producing countries corn, soy, canola and cotton. In the case of soybeans, adoption in the United States according to the State Department of Agriculture (USDA) is 94%. The percentage is similar in Brazil with 93.2% of the 31.2 million hectares of planted areas. While in Argentina it is practically 100%, while in the world it is 81%.
The adoption is due to the increase in yield obtained by crop protection. Mainly against weeds for herbicide resistant crops and is estimated to benefit the farmer by at least 4.2% more income. And cumulatively 46.6 billion dollars from 1996-2014.
While for soybeans with resistance to insects and herbicides, the percentage of increase in yield for the farmer ranges between 7.8 and 11.9%. In addition, the use of this type of variety allows the use of minimal tillage.
The safety of biotechnology for human health and the environment has been extensively reviewed by academics, scientists and regulators around the world. Such as the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the GRACE project of the European Economic Community and the Science and Technology Council of the United Kingdom.
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