What are genetically modified food, its historic view, and struggle of Pakistan in developing BT Cotton?

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Kharif crops, Vegetables, Fruits and Pulses

             

The article includes;

  • Brief introduction of BT crops.
  • Historic touch of BT and Genetic revolution.
  • Merits and demerits of BT.
  • Role of Pakistan in development of BT cotton.
  • Conclusion.

Genetically Modified Crops or Foods:

The technology that uses genetic engineering to modify the DNA. These plants are used in agriculture. It involves insertion of DNA into genome of an organism. In order to produce GM plant, the desired DNA is inserted into plant cell, then the cell is grown in tissue culture where the develop into a new plant, thus seed produced by this plant will have inherited DNA.

GMO Age:

Co-Author names: Dr. Faisal Hafeez1, Ayesha Iftikharr2, Muhammad Sohaib3.

1 Assistant Entomologist at Entomological Research Institute (ERI), Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI), Faisalabad.

2 Agricultural Officer at Entomological Research Institute (ERI), Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI), Faisalabad.

3Institute of agricultural sciences (IAGS), University of The Punjab, Lahore.

Author’s E-mail: m.sohaib897@gmaill.com

Actually the history of GMO crops is interesting to know. Usually, the prehistoric farmers used most reproductive plants and seeds for effective yield up to 10,000 years. But what was the change in 20th century, scientist started to use selective individual traits at gene level and controlling placement of gene in new crop.

Scientific study of gene:

Austrian monk Gregor Mendel systematically crossed varieties of garden peas in 1860s. Thus for the first time he introduced the concept of a “gene” as a unit of heredity. So in 1968, Chemist Friedrich Meischer introduced DNA, Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. But at that time, scientists thought that the process of genetics means to produce new verities or traits was too simple.

Oswald Avery determined DNA as the true carrier of molecular information in 1944, meanwhile in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick described molecular shape of DNA called as a double helix structure. It was the main step towards genetic engineering. Then came invention of first genetically modified plant in 1983 by using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant.

Meanwhile different scientist too their part in GMO history. Like in 1990s, chymosin was approved in several countries. We all know cheese is made by using the enzyme rennet that was extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists produced chymosin by using bacteria, which also has ability to clot milk, resulting in formation of cheese.

The mechanism of gene splicing started from 1972. In this year, techniques were developed that made it possible to chemically cut and splice strands of DNA Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer at specific places in the sequence. In 1976, they introduced human genes that produce insulin in the bacteria. Those bacteria had ability to produce insulin. After this, they manufactured human growth hormone that was used for the dwarf children to grow to normal size. Before genetic modification techniques, certain drugs were used. Thus Gene-splicing technology revolutionized the food industry in 1990.

BT-Crops:

The next step in genetic engineering was development of BT crops. They are named for Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria that naturally secrete substance that repels certain insect pest. The aim of BT crops is to produce toxin substance in every cell of plant as produced by bacteria, in order to protect the crop from pest. But the point of ponder is that, BT resistance is also observed against certain pest due to which threat to organic farming is being faced.  In 1995, the first BT crop was made against Colorado Potato Beetle Resistant BT Potato by Monsanto.

List of BT crops:

The BT crops are;

  • Corn.
  • Potato.
  • Cotton.
  • Cottonwood.
  • Brinjal.
  • Rice.
  • Soy.

Advantages of BT Crops:

  • The decrease use of pesticide causes the prevention of soil pollution.
  • Due to less use of chemicals, we can prevent beneficial insects.
  • Labour is reduced.
  • The shelter of insect pest is destroyed.
  • It is environmentally save and cost effective as number of spray is reduced.

Disadvantages of BT Crops:

  • The cost of BT crops is high as compared to normally grown crops.
  • These crops may cause severe skin allergies.

Role of Pakistan in BT:

The technical name of cotton is Gossypium hersutum and it belong to Malvaceae family. Pakistan did work on development of BT cotton. This cotton is used against American bollworm.

Cotton is called as white gold and is important cash crop. It is reason for 8.2 percent of the value added in agriculture and about 3.2 percent to GDP. Lives of several paper is depending upon cotton crop from like farmer community, textile community etc. In whole world, Pakistan is fourth-largest producer of cotton.

In the Pakistan, there are two main type of pest – sucking and chewing. The sucking pests usually controlled by chemical exposure but the sucking pest are main reason for crop loss due to their unique damaging characters i.e. known as Bollworms – American, Army, Pink and Spotted bollworm are major causes to decrease cotton crop yield and lint quality. Another recent disease cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) spread in Punjab and Sindh pushed our institutes.

Thus Pakistan focused on development of BT Cotton, and on that time Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz himself said that farmers should grow BT openly, there was also Government support to them. And other ministries also focused on growing BT cotton. In order to fulfil this plan different Pakistani Agricultural research institute released different BT varieties like “IR-FH-901”, “IR-NIBGE-2”, “IR-CIM-448” and “IR-CIM-443”; and recently released NIAB-886 and NIAB-777.

This articleconcludes that there are several benefits and risks of agriculturalbiotechnologies, including GM crops.  Itis up to us how we improve these technologies and new research for our use thatwould help farmers too. We just need to bring new innovation for our farmers sothat they can grow crops at high yield bearing low expenses so that we cancontrol problem of starvation too.

The cultivated areafor BT cotton varieties is Punjab – Bahawalpur, Multan, Muzaffer Garh and KarorPakka. Then farmers independently visited their farmers and compared the yieldof BT cotton with non BT cotton, they also noticed the tendency of insect peston both crops.

Conclusion:

This article concludes that there are severalbenefits and risks of agricultural biotechnologies, including GM crops.  It is up to us how we improve thesetechnologies and new research for our use that would help farmers too. We justneed to bring new innovation for our farmers so that they can grow crops athigh yield bearing low expenses so that we can control problem of starvation too.

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