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    Biotechnology and its applications for benefit of mankind. .
    By Ashwani Kumar | September 25th 2012 05:54 AM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Ashwani

    Professor Emeritus ,Former Head of the Department of Botany, and Director Life Sciences, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. 302004, India At present...

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    "Sustainable agriculture" is as  articulated in the 1990"Farm Bill" Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990,P.L. 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603) sustainable agriculture means "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term: (A) satisfy human food and fiber needs; (B) enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; (C) make the most efficient use of non renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate,where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; (D) sustain theeconomic viability of farm operations; and (E) enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."

     How far biotechnology can help achieve these goals : 

    Benefits of biotechnology

    It is  a precise process in which scientific techniques

    It is a technique  to develop useful and beneficial plants.

    It improves process of  traditional plant breeding

    • Five priority areas have been  identified:
    • A- Food industries. Production of single-cell protein, Spirulina, enzymes and solid-state fermentations.
    • B- Increase and improvement of agricultural production.
    • C- Production of pharmaceuticals  ;  the extraction of biologically active plant substances.
    • D- Immunology: Production of vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.
    •  Virology : Cultivation of virus for vaccineproduction, also used to study there infectious cycle. 
    • Genetic Engineering :  Production of commercial proteins, large scale    production of viruses for use in vaccine production e.g. polio, rabies, chicken pox,hepatitis B&measles

      Gene therapy: Cells having a functional gene canbe replaced to cells which are having non-functional gene

    • E- Use and recycling of agricultural and industrial wastes and by-products for the production of ethanol, acetone butanol and methane              

     Biotechnology has the potential to assist farmers in reducing on-farm chemical inputs and produce value-added commodities. However  there are concerns about the use of biotechnology in agricultural systems including the possibility that it may lead to greater farmer dependence on the providers of the new technology. This is open for debate. 

    Limitations of Conventional Breeding

    (1) F1 hybrid produced is of intermediate quality 

    (2) Extreme heterozygosity and pronounced inbreeding depression in plant species                           (3)  Screening of new selections is  tedious and time consuming

    How does Plant Biotechnology help ? 

    • Biotechnology is a  frontline technologies today being developed and used to understand and manipulate biological molecules for applications in medical, agricultural, industrial and environmental sectors of the national economy. 
    • Recent advances in biotechnology provide good opportunities for immediate benefits to developing countries.
    • The innovations made in biotechnology applications include :

      a.  development of micro-propagation systems for many plant species and of new plant varieties with highly desirable characteristics.

      b-Manipulation of genetic material and its cloning into other organisms.

      c-  Production of genetically engineered plants that are resistant to _insects viruses,  and herbicides.

    d     Fermentation technology producing many human and animal health products, as well as food and feed ingredients.

    E- Treatment and utilization of liquid and solid wastes

    These developments could have wide applications in agricultural production and environmental protection

    • The main challenges facing the developing  countries are related to food supply and conservation of resources
    •  Biotechnological approach can help in better utilization of resources: 

       a-  Nutrient availability, uptake and nutrient cycle  and increasing soil fertility through  regulating biological activities

       b- increasing food production through genetically improved plants.  

    • In 1982, the production of dates in the Near Eastern and North African countries accounted for about 73 percent of total world date production (1.9 million tonnes).
    • Vegetative micropropagation through tissue culture is therefore a promising technique for multiplying elite, high-yielding and disease-resistant trees.
    •  The results obtained in Saudi Arabia as well as in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have shown that in vitro micropropagation can be very successful. 
    • However, future research is needed to overcome the difficulties related to early flowering and lack of uniformity of the cloned plants.

       c- _Bioremediation biological waste water treatment 

       d-    and Bioconversion of waste for food and feed ingredients.

    Developing renewable energy sources and waste recycling is possible using biotechnology techniques  and techniques in making: 

    Agricultural and forest residues generated in some countries (Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic) are considered renewable resources that can be utilized by biotechnological means for the production of food, feed, fertilizers and fuel.  Biotechnology can improve the existing processes and develop new metabolic pathways for improved products or production levels. 

    The majority of these countries have established traditional fermentation industries,e.g The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic and Egypt.  

    • There are various sources of raw materials for fermentation in developing countries .
    •  Huge quantities of hydrocarbons and methanol are found in oil-producing countries,
    •  Carbohydrate by-products (molasses) and lignocellulose waste (cardboard, paper) are found in most countries.
    • Baker's yeast production (The Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt); 
    • Methanol and acetic acid production (Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and Egypt); and D- acetone,butanol and citric acid (Egypt).

     Fermented dairy products' plants have been established in all countries and biotechnology offers enormous scope for improvement.

    •  Biotechnology can offer better technologies for most of the developing  countries and  biological treatment plants for sanitary waste water can help utilize treated waste water for landscaping and agriculture.    


    Gerhard Adam
    I think you have pointed out many of the benefits that can arise from the proper application of biological science and technology.  Unfortunately, I expect that little of it will ever be implemented.

    I apologize for being so cynical, but this sounds strangely reminiscent of the hubris surrounding the "atomic age".  At that time, it was predicted that energy would become so cheap that it couldn't even be "metered" and would become free. 

    We've seen how that played out.

    The problem isn't science and never has been.  There isn't a single problem we face in the world today that exists because we lack knowledge.  In every case, we can solve the problems or at least make a significant improvement, but we elect not to because of politics and economics. 

    This is also what was be the deciding factor in biotechnology.  Despite its promise, we will see it be abused and subverted.  We already see the first warning signs, so while I can't prove it to be inevitable, I predict it nonetheless.

    So, I do applaud your optimism, and hope that you're more right than I am.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I apologize for being so cynical, but this sounds strangely reminiscent of the hubris surrounding the "atomic age". At that time, it was predicted that energy would become so cheap that it couldn't even be "metered" and would become free.

    We've seen how that played out.
    No, we haven't. There was a lot more belief in markets then and instead energy has been the most ridiculously over-regulated deregulation imaginable.  When government got out of regulating phone service and propping up monopolies, the prices for consumers went from $1 a minute long distance in the 1980s to where plenty of companies and consumers get unmetered phone calls today. 

    Otherwise, I agree the energy issue could have been settled long ago.  We simply disagree on method. You think companies should never make a profit and I think there are lots of instances where prime users finance the masses.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...the prices for consumers went from $1 a minute long distance in the 1980s to where plenty of companies and consumers get unmetered phone calls today.
    You're not seriously making that comparison are you?  The reduced price of phone service today is because of direct competition between internet VoiP and cell phones.  I haven't seen a single instance of where government deregulation has produced anything except more chaos and higher prices.
    You think companies should never make a profit ...
    I don't think that at all.  But there is a difference between being protected, privileged, and enjoying a kind of "monopoly" status, and the operation of an actual "free market". 

    The simple truth is that this is a result brought on by the corporations themselves.  In virtually every controversial issue whether it be Love Canal or 3 Mile Island, or even cigarettes, we have repeatedly seen the corporations place their own interests above those of the public/consumer.  While you can argue that this is what's legally required and is within the statutory obligations of corporate officers, I'm also free to argue that such an economic model is ultimately destructive. 

    I'm not against people making money, not even corporations.  But don't be pissing on my shoes and tell me it's raining.  If these corporations support a "free market", then there's no such thing as "too big to fail".  They should recall all of their lobbyists, since instead of spending millions on influencing and buying political protection, they should be focused on competing in a free market.

    Let's be clear.  The majority of regulation that occurs is because of businesses trying to stick it to each other.  That's precisely what is happening with Prop 37.  It is corporations using the government to advance their own commercial position.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It is corporations using the government to advance their own commercial position.

    So we should condone this by rooting for one side or the other?
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Not at all.  If the objective was to kill a bad law, then I would have no problem.  However propagandizing your own side under the auspices of killing a bad law will simply create more opposition.

    The majority of posts aren't analyzing the law and making comments about how it should be changed.  Instead they argue about the relative merits of GM versus organic foods, and talk about how it's unfair, etc.  It's a political/legal issue, so give me the political/legal arguments.  Don't talk about something being "anti-science" when the science has nothing to do with the legislation [assuming your interest is actually in creating a better law].

    The argument that people don't have a right to know is untenable.  It will never gain political traction and you can rail against that as much as you like, but there is no future in telling people what they must accept. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Ashwani Kumar
    Thanks for your valuable comments  encouragement. Please permit me to put  three quotes on record which substantiate your fears. 

    “I believe the world will be able to produce the food needed to feed the projected population of about 8.3 billion in the year 2025…but it cannot be attained without permitting the use of technologies now available or without research to further improve and utilize new technologies,including biotechnology and recombinant DNA.”

    Norman Borlaug, Ph.D.
    Professor, Texas A&M University
    Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1970


    “The campaign of fear now being waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and complete lack of respect for science and logic.”

    Dr. Patrick Moore
    Environmental Consultant
    Co-Founder of Greenpeace


      “While biotechnology is not a panacea for every nutritional and agricultural problem,it is a powerful tool to increase food production, protect the environment,improve the healthfulness of foods, and produce valuable pharmaceuticals. It should not be rejected…”

    Michael Jacobson
    Executive Director
    Center for Science in the Public Interest