For centuries now, scientists and breeders have been breeding out undesirable characteristics in plants and animals, a practice known as biotechnology. Fermentation and brewing, the manufacture of hard cheese, and the production of penicillin and detergents are all examples of the results of this technology.
Simply put, biotechnology is the modification of a plant, animal, or microorganism to achieve certain desirable characteristics. It is, especially used in plant and animal agriculture, industry, and medicine to produce strains that are fit for survival. Recently, scientists have started working on genes found in organisms to do biotechnology in plants and animals.
What Is Agricultural Biotechnology?
Agricultural biotechnology is the use of different scientific techniques to modify plants and animals. The undesirable characteristics like susceptibility to diseases and low productivity are bred out. If there is a particular trait that the plant or animal can benefit from, it can be bred in by using a gene that contains the characteristic.
Biotechnology has especially been beneficial in improving agricultural productivity and increasing the resistance of plants to diseases. Scientists do this by studying the DNA. They first identify the gene that would be beneficial to the plant or animal then work with the characteristics conferred in a precise and exact manner to achieve the desired outcome.
Advantages of Agricultural Biotechnology
Biotechnology has been beneficial in many ways. First, stabilized plants that have higher yields have been produced successfully. The resistance of these plants to pests, diseases and abiotic factors such as rainfall has played a major role in increasing the yields.
Animal feeds are being improved by biotechnology to increase their nutrient intake and reduce environmental wastes.
Another advantage of biotechnology is that it has led to the development of better vaccines that don't necessarily have to be stored in very cold temperatures. Penicillin, one of the most important components of antibiotics was produced through biotechnology.
How Agricultural Biotechnology is Used
1) Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering, also referred to as genetic improvement or modification, is the movement of a gene from one organism to another. This process allows for the transfer of a useful characteristic into an organism by inserting it with a gene containing the particular trait. In crops, genetic engineering has been used to increase productivity and resistance to weeds and harsh weather conditions.
2) Molecular Markers
Breeding was previously concerned with the removal and insertion of desirable physical traits, an example being the aggression of Bulldogs. By studying the DNA, scientists were able to find molecular markers that showed traits that were not visible. Using molecular markers, breeding has been made more precise and accurate, and this has countered the undesirable characteristics that may have appeared in future generations.
Biotechnology is used for making vaccines for both animals and human beings. These vaccines are better than the traditional ones because they are cheaper, safer, and can survive warmer tropical temperatures. Vaccines to prevent new infections have also been developed using biotechnology.
A genome is an entire set of chromosomes found in the DNA, and through the study of genomes and genetic mechanisms, breakthroughs have been made in biotechnology. Through genomics, the structure, function, location, and impact of a particular gene and genome are identified. This makes it easy to determine the characteristics that will be transferred to another organism and the exact results of the transfer of the gene.
5) Tissue Culture
This technique is used to produce a plant that is free from undesirable characteristics, which are mostly, diseases. A disease-free plant part is used to generate types that are disease-free. The different types of plants in which tissue culture works include bananas, avocados, mangoes, coffee, and papaya, among others.
Biotechnology in Agriculture and Food Production
In 1990, the first food produced as a result of biotechnology was released into the market. Ever since 1995, there has been a steady production of genetically modified foods all over the world, and by 2003, 7 million farmers, mostly in developing countries, were planting biotech crops.
Biotechnology has positively influenced the economy and social life of most developing countries. The increased food production by biotech plants means that more people can now enjoy food security while spending less on pesticides. This has, subsequently, led to increased standards of living.
Biotechnology in agriculture, both for plants and for animals is a reality. It offers a tool through which these organisms can be understood, and their genetic resource management improved. Plants and animals have, thus been able to increase their productivity and get better resistance to diseases through the study of their genes and the manipulation of their characteristics. There are different ways through which biotechnology is done, and they include genetic engineering, vaccination, molecular marker, tissue culture, and genomics. Technology is evolving and so does the world of science, and who knows, there might be another fascinating breakthrough in genetics and biotechnology.