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Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

Last Updated : 23 Nov, 2023
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Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: Genetic engineering in farming is like a high-tech tool that helps us make crops better, so they can handle tough weather, bugs, and diseases while producing more food. There are a number of applications of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture that are now regarded as the backbone of agricultural crop enhancement. Genetic engineering is quickly replacing conventional plant breeding programs. Because genetic engineering makes it possible to quickly boost crop yields and prevent natural calamities like droughts, it is transforming the way we produce food. In addition to enhancing crop productivity, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are decreasing the need for pesticides. Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are living organisms that have had their genes changed via genetic engineering.

What is Genetic Engineering in Agriculture?

Agriculture productivity is believed to be enhanced through the potential use of genetic engineering. Also, using the unused assets of biodiversity to support social and economic development may be possible through the addition or substitution of various genes into agricultural and forestry species. The time needed to generate new commercial kinds of crops has been drastically shortened by genetic engineering technologies. According to some researchers, the typical breeding cycle of 10-15 years might be cut down to only 2-3 years by using genetic markers.

In addition to the supposed advantages of genetic engineering for developed countries, supporters argue for its application to enhance agriculture in underdeveloped nations. By using this approach, these nations may be able to shift from costly, high-input crop production to low-input, sustainable agricultural techniques.

Examples of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

In agriculture, genetic engineering is modifying an organism’s or plant’s genetic material to produce desired characteristics. Utilizing this technology has improved the nutritional value, pest resistance, production, and environmental adaptation of cattle and crops. The following are some examples of agricultural genetic engineering:

Golden Rice

The purpose of this genetically modified (GM) rice variety is to create beta-carotene, which is a source of vitamin A.

Bt Cotton

A toxin originating from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria has been genetically engineered into cotton plants. By protecting the plants from specific insect pests, this toxin functions as a natural insecticide, decreasing the need for chemical pesticides and increasing crop productivity.

Roundup-Ready Crops

Plants like cotton, corn, and soybeans have undergone genetic modification to make them resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide that is widely sold as Roundup. Glyphosate is a herbicide that farmers can use to control weeds without damaging their crops. This makes weed management easier and may even increase crop output.

Drought-Tolerant Crops

Drought-tolerant crops are created by genetic engineering. Genes that improve water-use efficiency or allow these crops to flourish in dry environments may have been placed into them, increasing agricultural output in arid areas.

Papaya Ringspot Virus-Resistant Papaya

Papaya crops have undergone genetic engineering to become resistant to the papaya ringspot virus, which was causing havoc and endangering papaya production. Many nations have successfully embraced genetically modified (GM) papayas, which has contributed to the preservation of papaya orchards.

Salinity-Tolerant Crops

Through genetic engineering, it is possible to produce crops that survive in highly salinized soils. This is especially crucial in areas where irrigation can cause the soil to become salinized, which makes it difficult for conventional crops to grow well.

Applications of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

Genetic engineering contributes to overall crop production growth by increasing medicinal and nutritional value. It assists scientists in designing plants that can withstand dangerous diseases and harsh climatic conditions. We can use genetic engineering in agriculture in a variety of ways, including:

Crop Improvement

One of the most significant benefits of genetic engineering in agriculture is increased crop production. Scientists can use genetic engineering to increase crop yields, lower food costs, improve food quality, food security, and medicinal value. All of this is possible with genetic engineering in agricultural crops, as scientists can change the genes of crops to meet all of the above requirements. Thus, genetic engineering is important in crop improvement.

Herbicide Resistance

Herbicide is a substance that is toxic to plants and is primarily used to destroy undesirable plants. The ability to survive herbicide exposure is referred to as herbicide resistance. Herbicides are essential in modern agricultural practice, and there is a strong desire to develop less toxic substances. So developing herbicide-resistant plants is a major goal of genetic engineering, and here are a few reasons why:
• Herbicide resistance can be achieved by transferring a single gene to plants. This is critical because the transfer of more than one gene to plants remains an unsolved problem. 
• The use of herbicide resistant plants provides additional benefits to framers by reducing and simplifying the use of herbicides.
Herbicide resistance plants are not new to farmers, but their use is becoming increasingly popular. However, their application is limited. In today’s world, genetic engineering is also assisting scientists in the transfer of resistance to non-herbicide plants.

Insect Resistance

In India today, a greater percentage of agricultural losses are attributed to crop damage caused by insects. We can use genetic engineering to introduce a new sequence of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) into plants, making them more resistant to insects. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops, for example, are genetically engineered crops that contain bacterium crystal toxins that make them more resistant to other insects. Thus, genetic engineering can be used to create plants or crops that are resistant to insects.

Virus Resistance

Plant virus disease control has involved a variety of agricultural implementations and strategies, with varying degrees of success. Fortunately, with the advancement of genetic engineering, scientists are now able to produce more promising results in terms of virus resistance in plants. The expression of a coat protein sequence in plants with a protein gene is currently the most successful virus resistance method in plants. Plants responded positively to the virus using this method. More research is being conducted to develop a more simplified method of introducing the protein gene into plants in order to make them more resistant to viruses.

Delayed Fruit Ripening

Fruit ripening is another major issue in the agricultural sector. Fruit ripening can be delayed using genetic engineering. To delay the ripening of the fruit, it is best to store it in cold temperatures, preferably in freezers. To delay the fruit ripening with genetic engineering, the enzyme ACC oxidase catalyzes the oxidation of ACC to ethylene, the final step in the ethylene biosynthetic pathway. Down regulation of the ACC oxidase gene via anti-sense technology results in suppression of ethylene production, delaying fruit ripening.

Frost Resistance

We know that plants can withstand a certain temperature, and that if the temperature falls below that threshold, the plant dies. For example, a normal seed plant can withstand temperatures as low as -1 degrees Celsius; however, if the temperature drops below -4 degrees Celsius, the plant freezes and dies. We can use genetic engineering to change the genes of plants so that the seed plant can withstand negative temperatures, giving the plant the ability to withstand even harsh climatic conditions.

Genetically Engineered Foods

It is very likely that we are now eating a greater proportion of genetically engineered foods such as corn, potato, soybean, canola, and so on. Because corn crops are more susceptible to insect attack, most corn crops are genetically modified to withstand insect attack. Another advantage of genetically modified corn is that pesticides are not used to kill the insects, resulting in more 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 that occurs when the potatoes are packed. Genetically modified canola oil is widely used in cooking, and the seeds can be fed to animals. The majority of genetically modified canola oil is herbicide resistant, allowing farmers to easily control weeds.

Importance of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

The application of genetic engineering in agriculture is important because it provides solutions to serious issues with food production. Genetic engineering greatly increases crop yields and improves resource efficiency by introducing traits that promote resistance to pests, diseases, and environmental challenges.

Also, addressing hunger and enhancing public health is made possible by the capacity to modify crops for increased nutritional content, such as the creation of biofortified cultivars like Golden Rice. By making crops resistant to particular pests, technology also greatly reduces the impact of agriculture on the environment by removing the need for chemical pesticides. Global food security, sustainability, and human health could all be greatly advanced by genetic engineering in agriculture.

Disadvantages of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

While there are many advantages to genetic engineering in agriculture, there are also potential disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages are:

  • Environmental Impact: The use of genetic engineering in agriculture has caused concerns about unexpected consequences, such as gene flow to wild plants that could disrupt ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.
  • Resistance Issues : Diseases and pests may develop a resistance to genetically engineered characteristics, which could result in the development of superweeds or superbugs and a greater need for pesticides.
  • Changes in Plant Genome: The process of genetic modification may cause unintentional modifications to the plant’s genome, which creates concerns regarding possible adverse impacts and consequences over time.
  • Human Health Concerns: There is ongoing discussion about the long-term health impacts and allergic reactions of consuming genetically modified organisms, raising concerns about safety.
  • Ethical and Social Issues: The use of genetic engineering in agriculture has led to concerns about fair access to technology and ethical issues related to ownership, control, and the impact of huge biotechnology businesses on agriculture.

Resources related to Genetic Engineering in Agriculture:

FAQs on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

1. What is Genetic Engineering in Agriculture?

Genetic engineering in agriculture involves the intentional modification of an organism’s genetic material, usually its DNA, to introduce specific traits or characteristics that are desired for improved crop performance.

2. What are the 5 applications of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture?

Genetic engineering is a tool that scientists are able to use to improve food security, quality, affordability, and medicinal value in addition to raising agricultural yields. Scientists can alter crops’ genes to suit each of the above criteria, making all of this possible with genetic engineering in agricultural crops.

3. How is Genetic Engineering used in Agriculture?

Plants can be genetically modified by introducing a particular DNA sequence into their genome resulting in new or unique characteristics. This may involve altering the plant’s growth pattern or providing disease resistance on it.

4. What is Genetic Engineering in Agriculture?

Genetic engineering, often known as genetic modification, is the direct application of biotechnology to modify a plant’s genome. It is a collection of methods for altering a cell’s genetic composition, including the transfer of genes both inside and between species to create new or enhanced plant species.

5. What is the Role of Recombinant DNA Technology in Agriculture?

Through the cloning and insertion of bacterial genes into plant cells, recombinant DNA has increased nitrogen fixation efficiencies and hence improved plant growth in agriculture. Resistant genes have been transferred into the genomes of other plants to make them resistant to viruses, pests, and caterpillars.

6. How Genetic Manipulation is used in Sustainable Farming?

Crops are modified through genetic engineering for more sustainable food production systems. Enhancing characteristics for desired results has been a major focus of agricultural genetic engineering. As a result, crops with improved yields, quality, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors have been developed.

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