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Genetic Engineering In Agriculture

<p style="text-align: justify;">'Genetic Engineering&rsquo; is defined as the &ldquo;process of modifying an organism through the artificial manipulation, reconfiguration, and replication of DNA or other molecules such as nucleic acids&rdquo;. It refers to the transfer of desired genes from one organism to another and is helpful in the creation of modified foods by introducing the desired gene into the body, resulting in faster growth of an organism. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) carries the genetic information for an organism's development and functioning, including crop plants.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetic engineering is helping increase crop yields and prevent droughts and natural disasters. The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) reduces the amount of pesticides to be sprayed and increases crop yield.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Advantages of Genetic Engineering</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">It can be used to get the following advantages over traditional agriculture:</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Production of New Foods</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetic engineering helps in food modification. For example, we can modify a fruit&rsquo;s gene to resist extremely harsh climatic conditions, which can withstand natural disasters like droughts and tsunamis. Scientists can also enhance the medicinal and nutritional values of foods.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Altering growth in Plants</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genes of plants can be altered in such a way that the plant can grow at a faster rate. The GMO plants can withstand harsh climatic conditions, allowing the plant to survive and improve crop yield.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Pest and Herbicidal Resistance</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetic engineering technology can make plants more resistant to insect pests and pesticides. Further, these can be designed to withstand harsh climatic conditions and resist various diseases benefiting the earth&rsquo;s environment and crop production.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Herbicide resistance can be achieved by transferring a single gene to plants. Thus, genetic engineering can be used to create plants or crops resistant to insects. For example, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops are genetically engineered and contain bacterium crystal toxins that make them more resistant to other insects.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Virus Resistance</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Plant virus diseases are difficult to control, but the advancement of genetic engineering has helped solve this problem.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">For example, currently, the most successful virus resistance method in plants is the expression of a coat protein sequence in plants with a protein gene. Ongoing research is being conducted to develop a more simplified process of introducing the protein gene into the plants and thus making these more resistant to viruses.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Delayed Fruit Ripening</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Fruit ripening is a prominent concern in agriculture. The process of fruit ripening can be delayed using genetic engineering. Down-regulation of the ACC oxidase gene, which catalyzes ACC oxidation to ethylene, is in the final step in the ethylene biosynthetic pathway via anti-sense technology, suppresses ethylene production, delaying fruit ripening.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Frost Resistance</strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetic engineering can change plant genes so that the seed plant can withstand negative temperatures (-1 to -4 C), giving it the ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Genetically Engineered Foods</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">In the future, we may eat many genetically engineered foods such as corn, potato, soybean, canola, etc. GM Corn seeds are insect-resistant and may produce natural and clean corn yields. Potatoes have also been genetically modified to resist insects and viruses. A few potatoes are also engineered to be resistant to browning, which occurs when the potatoes are packed.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetically modified canola oil (Herbicide resistant) is used in cooking, and the seeds can be fed to animals. Herbicide-resistant, allowing farmers to control weeds easily.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">GM Crops in India</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">India&rsquo;s GM mustard saga began almost four decades ago. Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH 11) has been developed and is under testing, and it contains three genes from Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, a soil bacterium. Two genes prevent self-pollination, and one confers herbicide tolerance.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">So far, India approved only one other GM crop for commercial cultivation: GM cotton in 2002. In 2009, India&rsquo;s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared transgenic aubergine or eggplant, also called Bt brinjal, for evaluation. But it encountered a strong public backlash.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Conclusion</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">Scientists have developed crops that can withstand diseases, viruses, insect pests, weedicides, and abiotic stresses. On the other hand, genetic modification has a negative impact on the environment and human health, such as:</p><ul style="text-align: justify;"><li>Long-term unforeseen genetic issues</li><li>Pollen interfering with natural crops</li></ul><p style="text-align: justify;">Genetic engineering is widely used despite these drawbacks because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. GMO crops have definite advantages, like Bt cotton, and help increase crop production without much use of pesticides. Genetic engineering is one of the most significant breakthroughs in many industries, particularly agriculture.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><em>This article was contributed by our expert <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Dr. Devendra Pal</a></em></span></p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 18pt;">Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Dr. Devendra Pal</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">1. What is the scope of genetically engineered crops in India?</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">The success of genetically modified crops (GMCs) depends mainly on environmental issues, land holdings, agroclimatic and geoclimatic conditions, food preferences, and socio-cultural factors.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The direct and indirect impacts of these crops on human health, ecology, and the environment have not been evaluated on a long-term basis. The introduction of the first GMC, Bt Cotton (BC), showed varied responses throughout the country.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">New GMCs like Bt Brinjal and GM Mustard approved for open-field trials in the country are still being debated and need to be approved for commercial cultivation. Cotton fiber is not consumed, but cotton seed and its oil are used as animal feed and cooking in India.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">It is hard to distinguish whether a cotton seed is from BT cotton at the market. Although GM crops may be beneficial in terms of getting clean crops without much use of pesticides, need more research on environmental and health aspects in toto and not in isolation so that the technology of GMCs is utilized for the benefit of humankind.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">2. What is the economic importance of genetic engineering?</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">The commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops has continued to occur rapidly, with important changes in the overall adoption and impact occurring in 2012 in a few countries. The economic importance of GM crops, namely soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola, has been assessed.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">There have been significant net economic benefits at the farm level (USD 18.8 billion in 2012 and 116.6 billion over the 17 years). These economic gains have been divided roughly 50% each to farmers in developed and developing countries.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">3. What are the current issues related to GM crops in India?</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">The critics of GM crops felt that the current safety assessments are inadequate to catch most of the harmful effects of GM crops. There needs to be adequate machinery to test the GM crops imported, and only one Food Lab in Kolkata under the Ministry of Health needs to be better equipped.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The GEAC&rsquo;s refusal to publicly release the safety testing data submitted for regulatory approval of Bt Brinjal and GM Mustard, until GM opponents filed a Right to Information petition, has raised serious questions over transparency. All the safety tests for regulatory approvals in India are conducted by the same party applying for GM crop commercialization. The tendency to operate in secrecy has created a severe distrust of the government and the promoters of GM crops.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">It is unclear what effect animals and other insect pests may have in altering plants and their product makeup of GM crops if genes from unnatural organisms are added to crop plants (animals to plants).&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">4. How is genetic engineering beneficial in solving the current global food crisis?</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">Biotechnology holds tremendous possibilities for the developing world. The use of high-yielding, disease- and pest-resistant crops will have a direct bearing on improved food security, poverty alleviation, and environmental conservation.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">GM crops will produce more yields on less land. Ninety percent of the world's 13.3 million "biotech crop farmers" are from developing countries. India has 7.6 million hectares and is the fourth among the 14 "mega-biotech crop" countries. About five million farmers in India cultivate Bt cotton on 7.6 million hectares. The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton as a transgene, causing it to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues. It is protected from bollworms but not against plant bugs, stink bugs, and aphids and still requires the use of insecticides to a lesser extent.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The shift to Bt cotton has been possible because of the 31 percent increase in its yield, a 39 percent decrease in insecticide use, and higher profits equivalent to US $250 per hectare.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The world's food supply is abundant and sufficient to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person daily. The real reason for hunger in the world is poverty, which often strikes women, the nutritional gatekeepers in many familiest, the hardest. It is debated that hunger requires political solutions and not just agro-technical solutions.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Biotechnology has applications that can significantly solve the problem of world hunger. In my opinion, policymakers should pragmatically consider modern biotech discoveries and assets as an important tool for solving the problem of global hunger.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p>
KR Expert - Dr. Devendra Pal Singh

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