Biotechnology in Agriculture

Masud Rana Adel

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The population of the country is constantly increasing. Moreover, the amount of agricultural land in the country is declining due to internal development and climate change. The government is making various efforts to increase food production, which increased the pressure on agricultural land. Pressure on agricultural land can be reduced by using biotechnology. It also ensures good agricultural production.
Agricultural biotechnology is a tool that includes traditional breeding techniques, modified living organisms or parts of the living organism, develops plants, animals and microorganisms for use in certain agricultural activities. Nowadays modern agricultural biotechnology includes genetic engineering. It includes genetically modified crops, organisms and animals.

The tools of agricultural biotechnology are invaluable for researchers to understand the basic biology of living organisms. In agricultural biotechnology, changes are made directly to the plant’s genome. Once the gene that determines a desirable trait is identified, it can be selected, extracted, and transferred directly into another plant genome. It is helping to develop advanced animal and improved plant species, which are produced in conventional ways as well as through genetic engineering. Genetically engineered plants are known as phytoremediation, these plants absorb and accumulate contaminants in the soil so that the plants can be harvested and disposed of safely. Scientists first discovered in 1946 that DNA can be transferred between organisms. The first genetically modified (GM) plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant.

Crops produced through genetic engineering are evaluated for the feasibility of transferring traits to wild relatives. When new traits are genetically applied to a crop, new plants do not have weed traits. Where biotech crops grow in the vicinity of the respective plants, the possibility of exchanging traits through the pollen of the two plants needs to be evaluated. All kinds of crop plants can exchange features with their close wild weeds when they are nearby.
Farmers, producers and consumers have benefited from biotechnology in agriculture. Biotechnology provides tools to farmers that can make cultivation easier and more manageable. Many types of crops are still under research and development.
Advances in biotechnology provide consumers with nutritious or long-lasting food. To reduce the number of harmful substances naturally present in plants, developers are using biotechnology to reduce the saturated fat in cooking oil, reduce food allergens and increase food-resistant nutrients in food. They are also researching ways to use genetically modified crops to produce new drugs, which could reduce production costs by creating a new plant.

Biotech crops can make farming more profitable by increasing crop quality and may in many cases increase yields. The use of some of these crops simplifies the work and improves the safety of the farmers. This allows farmers to grow their crops in less time and spend more time on other profitable activities.
Biotech crops have been developed to resist certain diseases, insects and pests. Biotechnology protects crops by controlling pests and weeds and protects crops against diseases. In the case of improved weed control, herbicide-tolerant soybeans, cotton and corn use less risky herbicides, which break down more quickly in the soil and are less harmful to wildlife and humans. It makes pest control more reliable and effective and also reduces the use of synthetic pesticides. It also helps protect herbicide-tolerant crops from topsoil erosion, especially by adapting to low-cultivation farming methods.
Agricultural biotechnology is used to protect crops from harmful diseases. Because of various diseases, the yield of paddy in Bangladesh is reduced by about 10-15%. Diseases like fungi, bacteria, viruses, worms etc. are usually caused by the attack of germs on the crop. Research on potatoes, papaya, squash, tomatoes, and other crops continues similarly to provide resistance to viral diseases that otherwise are very difficult to control.
Biotech crops are of high quality. For example, rice can eliminate vitamin A deficiency and a combination of canola, soybean and corn oils can increase beta-carotene levels in rice, zinc-rich rice variety BRRI Dhan-62. Work is underway to produce crops that can grow in saline soils or survive in drought conditions.
Biotechnology can also be used to conserve natural resources, enable the efficient use of nutrients present in animal diets, and help meet global food needs. Researchers are working on crop production that will thrive even in the most difficult environments and will require less fuel, labour, fertilizer and water, which will help reduce stress on land and wildlife habitats. In addition to genetically engineered crops, biotechnology has helped improve agricultural practices that are not involved with plants.
Bangladesh releases the first genetically modified crop BARI Bt Brinjal-1 to farmers in 2013. By cultivating BARI Bt Brinjal-1, Bangladesh has become the 29th nation to grow genetically modified (GM) crops.  In the same year BARI Bt Brinjal-2, BARI Bt Brinjal-3 and BARI Bt Brinjal-4 were released following approval from the government’s biosafety regulator. The vegetable has been modified to be resistant to its most common pest, Fruit and Shoot Borers, which can devastate 50-70percent of a crop.
Concerning food safety, when new traits introduced to biotech-derived plants are examined by the IBGE and the BARI, the proteins produced by these traits are studied for their potential toxicity and potential to cause an allergic response.  Basic traits such as insect and disease resistance have allowed plants to survive and develop over time.
GM crops in Bangladesh include Bt brinjal (eggplant), virus-resistant potato, late blight resistant (LBR) potato, Bt cotton, Flavr save tomato, BRRI Dhan-86, BRRI Dhan-28, BRRI Dhan-62, Golden Rice etc. BIRI Dhan-86 yields 6 tons per hector and BIRI Dhan-86 yields 6.5 tons per hector.

Potential risks to assessing genetically engineered organisms include environmental impacts on birds, mammals, insects, worms, and other organisms, especially in the case of insect or disease resistance. Many of these crops are tested on a variety of organisms, such as bees, beneficial insects, earthworms, and fish, to ensure that no unintended consequences occur.
GM plants may have lasting effects on other organisms in the ecosystem. The change in a plant may cause it to be toxic to an insect or animal that uses it as its main food source.

Due to the widespread use of insect-resistant genes in crops the insects may become resistant to genetic modifications. It causes a widespread loss of crops and plants that have natural immunity leading to a loss in biodiversity.
Genetic modification can also make it difficult to know what we are eating, as a plant could contain animal products via genetic engineering. This could cause issues for those with dietary restrictions and religious commitments.

GM crops may have side effects to humans like- allergic reactions, infertility, birth defects, lethal to beneficial insects, superweeds and super pests etc.
Although agriculture makes a significant contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, it is also a major driver of biodiversity loss. The world’s biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate, threatening the sustainability of agricultural and ecological services and their ability to adapt to changing conditions, threatening food and livelihood security.

The major challenge for agriculture is to ensure food security, adequate nutrition and stable livelihoods for all, now and future, by increasing food production while adopting sustainable and efficient agriculture, sustainable consumption of resources, and landscape-level planning to ensure the preservation of biodiversity.
Though agricultural biotechnology has some environmental impacts, to meet the food demand we have to use biotechnology. GM crops yield more as well as yield nutritious food like- Golden Rice, BRRI Dhan-62. The agricultural biotechnology process will make it possible to meet the demand for food while reducing the cost of food production.

Autghor is a Student, Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University

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