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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Biotechnology in agriculture – Bid to eradicate hunger by increase in yield - To overcome climate challenges:

Biotechnology in agriculture – Bid to eradicate hunger by increase in yield - To overcome climate challenges:

Now it is known fact that, because of global warming, climate change is taking place. The effects of climate change are erratic behavior of nature, such as intensified drought, flood, cyclone etc. Now, it has become challenge to us to grow more food despite having erratic changes in world climate and nature. Further, explosive growth of population worldwide and need of using ethanol (bio-fuel) blended gasoline made us think about the increase in agriculture production.

Under the above backdrop, it is felt, biotechnology in agriculture would become the key to feeding growing population; take care of agricultural production in the adverse climatic conditions both for food and production of ethanol. Overcoming climate challenges like crop-killing droughts etc., are very important, for which science of biotechnology can be very much useful. Biotechnology scientists believe that, it can increase corn and soybean yields by 40 per cent over the next decade. New tools and biotechnology can work in conjunction with better breeding and higher yielding seed to give maximum benefit to human being.

We all know that, crop shortages this year have sparked riots in some countries and steep price hikes in markets around the globe causing lot of miseries and death due to starvation.

Now the question is how to address these issues effectively in order to achieve sufficient agricultural production to overcome crop shortages. Despite persistent reluctance in number of nations and environmental groups, genetically modified (GM) crops have been on the rise. Growing food and bio-fuel demands have been helping push growth of GM crops.

Water scarcity is one of the major problems, which is expected in doubling in severity over the next few decades even as the world population explodes, and will only be worsened by global warming climate change. With about nine billion people expected to populate the globe by next couple of decades and about 85 per cent of the population seen in lesser developed countries, decreased land for agriculture and multiple demands on water use will come hand in hand with an expected doubling in food demand.

Scientists opine that, by using conventional and biotech genetically modifications, crops can be engineered to yield more in optimum as well as harsh climatic conditions, can be made healthier, pest resistant and can be developed in ways that create more energy for use in ethanol production. As food prices increase worldwide and shortages causing starvation deaths; use of GM crops certainly brings a more practical perspective to the debate. Number of tools can be brought to bear with biotechnology to solve the crisis.

As discussed, the most widespread application of genetic engineering in agriculture by far is in engineered crops. Thousands of such products have been field tested and over a dozen have been approved for commercial use. The traits most commonly introduced into crops are herbicide tolerance, insect tolerance, and virus tolerance. In recent time, number of companies is engaged in developing genetically engineered seeds such as, disease-resistant biotech wheat, drought-resistant corn, crops that need less fertilizer and corn that more efficiently can be turned into ethanol. Biotechnology can also address health concerns of consumer and can contribute to healthier life as in the case of soybean oil where about 90% reduction in saturated fat and trans fat has been achieved.

At present, it is a challenge to world community to increase access to agriculture’s tools and any nation’s focus should be on its self-sufficiency, which by adopting biotechnology can be achieved, it is felt. Agriculture is an extremely complex system and needs expertise in technology to sustain an equitable growth for the farmers. Therefore, in my opinion, it is important to create partnerships, relationships among both the biotechnologists and farmers in order to bring practicality to address the problems.


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