Role of Biotechnology in Agriculture

Biotechnology has become indispensable for crop improvement now a day. The terminology was first used by a scientist named Karoly Ereky in 1919. To manipulate the gene was a dream until There are certain situations where there is no option except to use some protocols of biotechnology to get our solution. The aim of biotechnology is to face the needs of the growing population.

By Mujahid Ali, Dr. Shoaib-ur-Rehman (Horticulture, UAF)

To feed 210 million people in Pakistan has become a challenge. Agriculture and dairy farming is the only option to achieve the task. Its main products are antibiotics and hormones etc. To find genes which control the character is the basic objective of biotechnology. Then to manipulate these, for example, to delete it from its place, to insert it into an organism or to make an alteration in it to modify plant accordingly is the target. The organism whose genetic makeup is changed or modified is called GMOs. It is giving more yield than conventional breeding. In conventional breeding, it takes more time usually years to insert one gene in an organism and even we fail. But Biotechnology can do so in a very short time. Biotechnology even enables us to create a gene of interest. The person involves in this field are called genetic engineers. Recently, about twenty-nine biotechnology-based laboratories are active in Pakistan.

During the years 1996 and 2011, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops had increased by a factor of 94, from 17,000 square kilometers (4,200,000 acres) to 1,600,000 square kilometers (395 million acres). 10% of the world’s crop lands were planted with GM crops in 2010. As of 2011, 11 different transgenic crops were grown commercially on 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 29 countries such as the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain.

Biotechnology is very complex to understand. It is a recent advancement in human welfare. To understand DNA is the first step in getting knowledge of biotechnology. Gene is a part of DNA which control a specific character or influence on it. There is a sequence of nucleotide in it. DNA is mostly present in the nucleus of the cell. To understand markers and primer is also very important. We use molecular markers to find the gene of interest having a specific sequence. Polymer chain reactions (PCR), DNA extraction and Recombinant DNA technology etc. are important to know before starting this technology.

Role of biotechnology in plant protection is vital. We can find genes responsible for disease production. We can delete these genes or genes that produce tolerance in crops can also be inserted. So crops are becoming resistant to insect pest and different pathogens. To date, most genetic modification of foods has primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil. Almost every agronomic crop has been genetically engineered.

Yields and nutritional value has been enhanced through farming biotechnology monetarily on a wide scale for more than 12 years. These yields have been increasing worldwide at rates surpassing some other advances ever of. Agrarian biotechnology has been appeared to increase trim creation by seven to ten times in some developing nations, a long way past the generation abilities of customary horticulture, and the worldwide network is paying heed. In 2007, 12 million agriculturists in twenty-three countries, twelve developing and eleven developed countries planted 252 million sections of land of biotech crops, fundamentally soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola. Eleven a great many these were little or asset poor ranchers in creating nations.

It is not an easy job to deal with genes. It requires a lot of capital to initiate and run biotechnological laboratories. A lot of expertise is needed. It needs much skill personals. Highly technical staff is having a prime requirement. It is much difficult to do experiments and sometimes it can not replaces breeding. Moreover, GM foods are controversial. Developed nations are banning its use for food crops. It causes allergy and other diseases for example cancer. Some social issues are also related to this field. It also causes environmental problems. So, we have to keep balance to move further toward biotechnology programs. 

Mujahid Ali

I am a Ph.D. scholar in Institute of Horticultural Sciences, UAF and Ex-Visiting Lecturer in Horticulture UOS, Ex-Research Fellow in ACIAR project on vegetables and Erx-Teaching Assitant in Horticulture UAF. Moreover, Ph.D. IRSIP done in the United States.

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