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Biotechnology scenario.

It is an established fact that the progress of any country generally depends mainly on the role plays by the agriculture, health and industry. Modern biological phenomena have helped in this development by giving a new technology which no doubt offers tremendous opportunities and ideas in solving the most burning problems. It is the requirement of every country to solve the many human problems and such practice was going on since time immemorial. With the development in technology, it has become possible to manipulate genes for almost every character, resulting in the production of desired traits and at whatever scale a person desire. The new biotechnology uses the knowledge about the interior of a living cell. This knowledge makes things easier for users to direct and manipulate the products they make.

Due to this development, it seems within reach of human endeavors to generate miracle drugs and fight against parasites and viral diseases, which heavily affects the developing countries. There is vast area of application of biotechnology in agriculture and it is unwrapping the many secret problems of not agriculture but also of human health, medical and industry.

Technology is a key factor in socio-economic development of a country. Technological advancements in the field of biotechnology have become too important in the global scene, which should not be ignored by any developing country. Experience has shown that developing countries need assistance in becoming sensitized to the potential and application of such technology and in developing human resource capability to handle the inflow of such technology. There is considerable debate in both the media and academic circles about the risks and benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology research. Most of this debate relates to the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crop varieties in the industrialized world. So far, very little attention has focused on the role that biotechnology might play in the developing countries, or how it might benefit poor farmers and consumers in those countries.


Many factors affecting plant growth and crop quality such as drought, insects and diseases are often beyond farmer's control. It has now become possible to produce plants that are better 'tailored' to thrive in imperfect conditions by drawing on the skills of the plant geneticist. Plant scientists can induce subtle changes or mutation in the genetic make up. Deoxyribonucleic (DNA) in plant seeds, buds or tissue. By monitoring plant growth, they can identify and select strains with the desired characteristics and develop cultivars for direct use or further cross-breeding. DNA can be introduced into entire plants or into protoplasts using vectors or by direct physical insertion. The sequences to be inserted will usually have been selected in bacteria cells initially. The linking or joining together of two DNA, which are nucleic acids containing deoxyribose (sugar), consisting of complex molecules with little oxygen and present in chromosomes of all plant, human and animal cells and carrying in coded form specific instructions for passing on of hereditary characteristics in the body for which the technology is carried out) molecules in a well and fully autoclaved, sterilized test tube and the subsequent insertion of this union of individual molecule into a living thing, whether it is of plant, human or animal origin. It does not necessarily imply that the two molecules never join together in nature, since frequently biotechnology is used to achieve a result which occurs only very rarely in nature. When applied to high organisms the term is usually taken to imply the introduction into an organism of a function, usually a gene or genes which either have not previously been detected in that organism or exist in it in a different form. A biology student made the first suggestion that DNA might have something to do with inheritance in 1944. In 1958, one America and a British, in Cambridge studied the structure of DNA and confirmed that a long, fragile molecule in the chromosomes carried the genetic code. That is, it contained the blue print for all life. Later on, in 1962 the first X-ray diffraction images of DNA were made in London by two scientists, who were awarded Nobel prize. Biotechnology has become one of the most important scientific ventures of the 21st century. It is a molecular technology used to modify genetic composition of any living organism i.e. microbe, plant, man, animal etc. The past three decades have seen unprecedented progress in the field of biotechnology. Research and development in biotechnology in and around 1962, which streamlined the technique to cut and join the genetic material (DNA) at specific sites or locations advances in understanding, transfer and/or recovery of foreign genes in any organism have made a revolutionary impact on every aspect of human activities, which include agriculture, industry, livestock and medicine, The context in which biotechnology is being developed is very different from that of the earlier Green Revolution, when the new high yielding varieties of wheat and rice were both produced and distributed largely by the public sector by doing a time consuming research work in those days. This biotechnology uses the knowledge about the interior of a living cell. This knowledge makes things easier to research workers to direct and manipulate the products they obtain. In this manner, the coded alterations in the cellular DNA can convert cell of specific wanted creatures into living energy source. Due to this achievement, it seems within the reach of man's efforts to generate miracle drugs and fight against viral diseases, which has tremendously effects in the developing countries; in production of self- fertilizing crops that release phytotoxins to fight against pests and to develop refining processes to utilize the industrial waste or sewage sludge and to give comfort of the anxieties to humans about the coming days. With the development in technology, it has become possible to manipulate genes for almost any character, resulting in the production of desired traits.

There are vast areas of application of genetic engineering and biotechnology for the cause and betterment of human beings. Some of these are: In Agriculture, plant genetic engineering can be defined as application of set of internal techniques for modification and culture of plant cells, tissue and organs alone or in combination with bacterial systems leading to the regeneration of transgenic plants. The greatest possibility of utilizing genetic engineering of crops, lies with the single characters like disease resistance. The genetic manipulation using conventional plant breeding takes decades provided the desired genes are available among cross compatible species or varieties. Whereas, biotechnology has the potential of achieving the same in months or years. This technique is used to achieve higher yields, more nutrients, better taste in cereals, higher sugar recovery in sugarcane longer stronger and finer fiber in cotton, more proteins in pulses, more oil in oilseed crops, introduction of disease-free and pest-resistant varieties, varieties which can tolerate heat, cold, flood, drought and adverse soil conditions. But the steadily transfer from breeding to gene transfer is taking place only because of the fact that the conventional breeding cannot control the transfer of undesirable characteristics while crossing is done between two plants. With the development of first genetically engineered tobacco plant in 1985, tremendous progress has been made in the area of plant biotechnology. There are now more than fifty different crop species which have already been genetically modified. The very recent example of these innovations was the release of transgenic seed of cotton in USA and Australia.

Generally, the plant breeders have fully utilized the most available morphological characters in addition to yield and other agronomic traits for the selection and development of the improved crop varieties. Through the remarkable development in this field, the geneticists have reached a point where morphologic features provided limited scope for the selection of improved plant material. It is multi-disciplinary technology involving every aspect of biological sciences. It is fully dependent upon the recent information technology for the accomplishments of some specific objectives of genetically improved techniques. At present the bio-technologists have reached a point, where morphological features provide a large scope for the selection of improved plant materials. With the development of DNA - based molecular markers such as Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP), AP-PCR, RAPD, DAF and more recently, Arbitrary Primed Length Polymorphism (APLP), accurate and precise selection of plant crops for desired traits, tagging of genes of interest such as disease resistance and selection of parents with known of genetic make-up have been possible. This new technology has a great potential in the area of agricultural productivity and thus used to achieve higher yields, more nutrients, better taste in cereals, higher sugar recovery in sugarcane, longer stronger and finer fiber in cotton, more proteins in pulses, more oil in oilseed crops, introduction of disease free and pest resistant varieties, which can tolerate heat, cold, flood, drought stress, adverse soil conditions etc. Products derived from genetically modified microorganisms e.g. bacteria, yeast have been used for the production of such commodities as yogurts, cheese and certain other vaccines since 1982. In the USA, genetically modified plants have been approved for food use since 1992, followed by the important main, staple crops like corn, rape seed and soya. In 1997, genetically modified soya (Monsanto roundup ready) reported approximately 10 percent of inherently less safe than food derived from conventional techniques. Therefore, the United State does not believe that genetically modified food, as a class, require mandatory labeling. The European Union, on the other hand has favored a labeling approach, which aims at informing consumers of the GM origin of plants. Plant biotechnology is emerging as a commercial reality. There are more than 300 commercialized agricultural and environmental biotechnology products currently available compared to just 32 biotechnology drugs. Analysts say that biotechnology will allow the food industry to continue the century-old trend of low food prices, increasing productivity and less labor. Biotechnological engineered cotton and canola seeds reached the market in 1995 and 1996 a wave of biotechnology crops, including the first insect- resistant cotton, corn and potatoes as well as herbicide-tolerant soybeans, cotton and canola are expected to become widely available to farmers. Monsanto a USA company predicts plant biotechnology will blossom into a 2 billion US dollars/year world-wide business by the year 2000 and a 6 billion US dollar/year market by 2005. Monsanto anticipates it will commercialize half-dozen transgenic crops over the next two years and is looking for profits through the sales of value-added seeds and increased sales of its herbicide and says it expects the genetically engineered products to be key to the future of its agricultural business.

Spurred by concern about serious food shortages predicted for 21st century Asia, scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines have developed the first prototype breeding lines of for what they hope will be a high-yielding rice of the future and they have named it as "Super Rice". The chief plant breeder at IRRI says that the new plant will increase harvests by as much as 25 percent when farmers start growing it this year. IRRI scientists believe the new rice could boost annual yields by 100 million tons. That would reduce the IRRI projected gap between current production and future demand by about one third. IRRI scientists believe they have found at least a partial solution by cross-pollinating the highest-yielding varieties IRRI created during, the first Green Revolution over several generations totaling five years. Compared with IRRI's existing high-yielding rice varieties, the resulting "Super Rice" appears far less bushy- each plant consists of only about 10 stems compared with 20 to 25. But all of the stems contain seed pods bearing 200 to 250 grains of rice, against only about 15 stems on other varieties of modern rice carry pods that bear about 100 grains. Thus, a single super rice plant will produce up to 2,500 grains of rice compared with a maximum of 1,500 grains from today's varieties. According to IRRI breeders, the super rice is also a more efficient plant. Thick, dark green and erect leaves catch more sunlight, boosting per-leaf photosynthesis by 15 percent. Because the plant makes more grain and less chaff, it produces more food per unit of fertilizer. And fewer excess stems mean farmers can grow plants closer together, increasing paddy yield.

Plant Biotechnology programme have been vigorously going on in many countries of the world for the purpose of producing genetically engineered crops and also the uses of technique in medicine and industry etc. We can quote the names of a few countries such as: SA, Canada, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Australia, European countries, Holland, Malaysia, Philippines, Brazil. New-Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan etc. In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency regulate genetically modified plants. These agencies are responsible for the review and evaluation of the mountains of data that has been generated by vigorous and thorough testing and have found that there is no evidence that generally engineered foods are total soya-harvest in the USA and by 1999, this had increased to 54 per cent (soya is one of the most versatile staple crop. It is used as an ingredient in over 30,000 foods).


The biotechnology related to agriculture, including environment and health has developed bio-fertilizers for, rice, wheat, food legumes and diagnostic tests for tuberculosis, hepatitis-C, typhoid and beta-thalassaemia as well as processes detoxification of effluent produced by textiles and pharmaceutical industries. In view of its potential, and multi-billion dollar biotech industry has come about in North America and Europe, which is investing in research and development and is pursuing and aggressive patent strategy along with the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Genetic engineering is mainly related with the developments of technologies based on plant biotechnology, (bio-fertilizers, bio-fuels, biotechnology of minerals and fossil fuels basic biology and environmental biotechnology), industrial biotechnology, biotechnology for health, and environmental biotechnology in the field of medical biotechnology.

Genetic engineering has great application in the improvement of health of human beings. The genetically engineered microbes can produce biologically active medicinal compounds. These include insulin, growth hormones, interferon etc. Production of effective microbes is also possible through this technique. The cure of many horrifying disease has become possible. World today, has made phenomenal advancement in science. Possibly, the new century may freeze or at least halt the decaying process because of aging, and man may come to live still longer and healthier.

In industry, this technique has several applications. Treatment of sewage and pollution control has been developed through this technique. Innovation of scientific approaches and their challenging application to unique and specific problems of the developing countries requires the talent of a well-trained manpower, which can define problems and devise strategies applicable in the specific system and environment. Good education at graduate level and post-doctoral work is essential in this regard. The university education system in the developing countries has been a very poor standard. University training lacks laboratory experience, which is vitally important for building the intellectual maturity for the future bio-technologists. For future generation we will have to work hard to develop appropriate technologies. By the use of gene technology, clearly defined and molecularly characterizable genes governing desirable characters are transferred. With increasingly refined techniques, more new and alien characteristics can be transmitted. Quantitatively, new combinations of genetic materials are now possible.


The benefits provided by bio technological methods and transgenic traits can significantly improve the worlds ability to feed itself on land already in cultivation, by increasing per unit productivity improving nutritional quality and reducing pre and post harvest losses. Though the adoption of chemical farming methods have resulted in the production of sufficient food but in consequence the environment has suffered a lot. It is an indoor activity used for maintaining the current level of productivity. Crop improvement through genetic engineering will hence be appropriate to strengthen the agricultural productivity. Proven applications can yield tremendous productivity increases in the developing world.

Dr. S.M. Alam
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Author:Alam, S.M.
Publication:Economic Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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