How can the Science of Bioengineering of crops and plants be applied to increase the production of food, in order to solve the problem of food shortage in the world?
The world’s population has significantly increased by 2.3 billion people in the last forty years, by the year 2040; it is approximated that an additional 3.6 billion people will be added to the earth (Hakim, Ozturk and Ahmad 241). The biggest percentage of increase is in developing nations, approximately one billion people go hungry every day, and these live in abject poverty. The population increase in many developing nations makes up 97% of the global increase. It is an intimidating task to feed the ever-increasing population in resource poor countries, agriculture in most of these countries has been challenged by the lack of arable land, small sized farms and poor agricultural practice that often results in soil degradation, salinization and desertification. Food security has continued to be an area of concern (Hakim, Ozturk and Ahmad 242). The application of bioengineering techniques in Agriculture can significantly improve the food security by raising crop tolerance to the advance weather and soil conditions by raising the crop tolerance to adverse weather and soil conditions, enhancing the crop adaptability to the different climates and through yield improvements and pest resistance and nutrition.
Development of different type of plants has been a major goal, among experts who breed plants. With conventional plant breeding, there is little or even no guarantee of getting particular gene combinations from the millions that are cross-generated, it is also not easy to combat genetically inherited diseases. While one desirable gene is gained another can be lost, this challenge has limited improvement that plant breeders can achieve (Cook 18389). Bioengineering has allowed direct transfer of one or a few genes of interests, this has allowed for plant improvement through modification by removing or switching some particular genes. Nanotechnology, plus development of transgenic plants is bio-engineering techniques, which can be utilized in improving food production.
To improve productivity and crop sustainability, new crop varieties have been introduced by using the transgenic approach. Greater emphasis has been given to development of insect resistance transgenic crops. The transgenic insecticidal crop method is in the process of revolutionizing the process of agriculture. The introduction of novel resistance genes in food crops can help to develop insect resistant crops (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 17). This approach will be significant in improving the plant’s capability to resist genetically transmitted disease. Current activities utilized to improve plant stress resistance and gene transformation are proving to be great achievements (Hakim, Ozturk and Ahmad 242). The present engineering methods have relied on transfer of genes that are involved in signaling or regulatory pathways, or those that encode stress tolerance conferring proteins. One major challenge with this method is that it may take longer, before other transgenic hybrids are ready for massive food production (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 13).
Nanotechnology has ability to revolutionize agriculture and food production by the utilization of new tools that enhance the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients. Smart sensors and smart deliverer systems have the ability to combat viruses and other crop pathogens. Currently, some major advances have aided measurements at sub cellular level; experts can now understand cells as organized, self-replicating information rich molecule. This application is intended to address some limitations and challenges that face large scale, chemical, and capital intensive farming (Jain and Barr 324). This includes modification, plus micro control in agricultural practices. Nanotechnology can have inroads into uncovering some significant biological processes, for example, self assembly, and cellular processes and systems biology. Eradication of heavy metals can be achieved through intense sensing. One major challenge with transgenic method is its costs plus intensive methods. When it comes to the production of food, countries that do not have efficient facilities for implementation may not be able to sufficiently apply this method in increasing yields (Malaysian Biotechnology Center 13).
The ethical issue is transgenic approach
Transgenic approach has created an intense debate that has been articulated by different stakeholders. No valid explanation has justified what makes transgenic method wrong. Some religious groups have argued that, application of transgenic approach to improve food production is like playing God. They have described this process as being intrusive to the life processes by explaining that it disrespects relationships between people and nature (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 8). Others have argued that, the approach disrupts the natural order and goes beyond the limits of what humans are allowed to do. Some people contend that science plus progress is given by God and should be used in helping people, managing the environment and supporting life (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 16).
Primary issues in nations that are growing are related in fair distribution of technology. Main questions focus on whether products produced by this approach will provide for people that needs them. The technology’s ability to increase or decrease the gap between the rich and poor makes it an ethical issue. One major allegation is that, products derived from transgenic approach are made by private companies with an intention to generate profit
Cook, J. “Towards Cropping Systems that enhance productivity and sustainability.” Proc Natl Acad Sci (2006): 18389-18394.
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Agriculture Ethics. Iowa City: Ames, 2005.
Hakim, Khalid ul Rehman, et al. “Biotechnology as an Aid for crop Improvement to overcome food shortage.” Crop Production for Agricultural Improvement (2012): 239-261.
Jain, SM and DS Barr. Molecular Techniques in Crop Improvment. New York: Springer, 2010.
Malaysian Biotechnology Center. “Biotechnology and Religion: Are they Compatible.” BIC
News 23 7 2004: 15-13.