Role of Biotechnology in sustainable Agriculture

The word “sustainable” comes from the word “sustain” which means to maintain, support, or to endure. Its usefulness will depend in large part on the degree to which sustainable agriculturists understand the utility of biotechnology. Biotechnology can give little assistance to sustainable agriculture in the short term. It can be more useful in the medium term, and it could be highly useful in the long term as an integral part of the art and science of plant breeding and other components of sustainable agriculture systems.

Agricultural production must be sufficient to feed us now and in the future and with ever increasing population, growing more food at reasonable prices becomes even more important. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) believes that more than 800 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, causing around 24,000 people to die every day from hunger, three quarters of whom are children under five.

“Hidden hunger,” or micronutrient deficiencies of iron, iodine, or Vitamin A, is of equal concern. According to the Micronutrient Report, “nearly 20 percent of the population suffers from iodine deficiency, about 25 percent of children have sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency and more than 40 percent of women are Anemic.

Agricultural biotechnology is a compilation of scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, that are used to modify and improve plants, animals and micro-organisms for human benefit. It is not a substitute for conventional plant and animal breeding but can be a powerful harmonizes. The present report walk around what roles biotechnology may play in contributing to sustainable agriculture and rural development, with particular concerns for bio safety and biodiversity. It focuses on several major policy issues, presenting biological diversity as a source of raw product for crop and animal improvement, including the use of biotechnology. It considers bio- safety as a major domain for addressing the impact of biotechnologies on health and the environment.

Main Constraints:

  • The absence of national programs and the lack of national funds.
  • The limited capacities in genetic engineering.
  • The lack of awareness of ongoing biotech activity that dominates the concerned government sectors.
  • The public sector is largely unaware of ongoing biotech-related activities.
  • The noted absence of a continuum between academic, government, industry, and public sectors.
  • The lack of potentially marketable products resulting from biotechnologies that could be used in agriculture industry.
  • The limited innovation because researchers are not made aware of market needs, and users find few incentives and means to adopt new knowledge and tools.
  • The lack of procedures for the safe application of biotechnology and genetic engineering in line with Cartagena Protocol of Bio safety.
  • The political strife in the Middle East and the negative impact it has had on Lebanon for the past three decades.
  • The farmer are not aware about modern technologies and their involvement in the different activities such as seminar, symposium etc.

Potential of Biotechnology for sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development:

Agricultural biotechnologies have major potential for facilitating and promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development. They could also generate environmental benefits, especially where renewable genetic inputs can be effectively used to substitute for dependency on externally provided Agrochemical inputs. The fact that genes or genotypes (e.g., varieties, breeds) can constitute locally renewable resources is of insightful significance to the further development of sustainable Agriculture and rural development. However, the power of modern biotechnologies to generate useful genotypes has not yet been harnessed for poorer farmers.

Nevertheless, the extent to which modern biotechnology will contribute to the achievement of food security for all is still an open question. Science alone is unlikely to provide a complete solution to the problems of rural development. There are many processes, factors and socio-economic structures underlying poverty in rural areas, such as lack of access to land and other productive resources, low purchasing power, political powerlessness, fragile environments and distance from markets

  • Apomixis an asexual technology of plant reproduction that can provide economic incentives to replant harvested seeds;
  • Micro-propagation and plant tissue culture technology (e.g., to generate disease-free plantlets of vegetatively propagated staple crops, such as cassava, potato, sweet potato, taro, bananas and other plantation crops);
  • Improved fermentation technologies
  • Improved technologies for generating biomass-derived energy
  • Generation of higher nutrient levels (e.g., pro-vitamin A, iron, essential amino acids) in nutrient-deficient staple crops, such as rice
  • Marker-assisted-selection strategies for improving agronomic traits in animal and plant varieties/breeds, including yield potential;
  • Development of genotypes with abiotic stress tolerance (e.g., aluminium and manganese tolerant crops which can grow in acidic soils, salt tolerance, drought tolerance);
  • Vaccines against animal diseases;
  • Insect resistance;
  • Bacterial, viral and fungal disease resistance;
  • Better crop digestibility for animals and humans;
  • Delayed over ripening of fruits and vegetables (e.g., to reduce post-harvest losses).
Current status of biotechnology in sustainable agriculture:

“An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the longer term;

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on farm resources and integrate where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operation
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.” Sustainable biotechnology
  • Satisfy human food and fiber [and fuel] needs 1. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction 2. Crop adaptation 3. Crop protection and increased yield from less available arable land Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Deforestation, cattle feedlots and fertilizer use - currently account for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 14% of all EU CO 2 emissions.
  • a major source of methane and nitrous oxide (N2O), with latest estimates showing that it accounts for 48% of methane emissions and 52% of N2O emissions in the EU.
  • Decrease in pesticide use through insect resistant biotech crops
  • Herbicide tolerant Biotech Crops such as genetically modified soybean
Reduced Till systems:

  • Herbicide tolerant Biotech Crops
  • estimated an additional saving of 13.1 BN kg CO2 in cases where the use of herbicide-tolerant varieties had facilitated the use of min-till or nontill systems
  • Fuel savings
  • Carbon sequestration in soil
  • No calculation for effective engineered microbes
Carbon sequestration in soil:

  • Soil carbon sequestration during the first decade of adoption of best conservation agricultural practices is 1.8 tons CO2 per hectare per year, with better cycling of nutrients and avoiding nutrient losses among the key benefits to farmers.
  • The most successful involves pest resistance conferred by the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene and Herbicide tolerant gene (HT)
  • Biotechnology has provided enabling technologies for - Yield increases and conversion processes for fuel crops such as corn ethanol and soy biodiesel
Crop adaptation :

Biotechnology approaches to selecting and adapting crops to new climatic conditions Agriculture accounts for 70% of all water use if current trends continue, predicted water shortages in agriculture have been identified as the single most significant constraint on crop production over the next 50 years

The C4 Rice project (IRRI) :

  • Increased water use efficiency, C4 rice would need less water because water loss will be reduced and the water used more efficiently.
  • C4 plants would have the pores in the leaves (cranz anatomy) partially closed during the hottest part of the day.
  • C4 plants have more Co2 absorption capacity in comparison to C3 plants.
  • C4 plants are able to do this because of the compartmentalization and concentration of CO2 that occurs in the bundle sheath cells.
  • Increased nitrogen use efficiency Increased nitrogen use efficiency.
  • Yield benefits, Models show that increased water and nitrogen use efficiencies and other characteristics would support yield increases of 30% to 50% based on comparative studies between rice and maize Sustainable Biofuels:
  • Biotechnology has provided enabling technologies for - Yield increases and conversion processes for fuel crops such as corn ethanol and soy biodiesel
  • 2nd generation biofuels – even more sustainable as does not compete with food or feed use – No till cropping for greater residue collection for cellulosic biomass (fronds, trunks etc) Dedicated energy crops (jathropha, switch grass, algae)

Biotechnology provided modern tools to modify crops according to human benefits and generate crops and organisms which is utilized to feed human population, Modern approaches of biotechnology such as genome editing technologies( Crisper cas9) being used extensively in generation of new varieties. In India Bt cotton have grown in large area after its introduction in 2002, it is free from any pest infestation ( bollworm), it prove its important is that biotechnology is the only alternate to boost Indian economy and provided sufficient food to ever Increasing population at global level.


2. Yasmin et al., (2011).The Role of Biotechnology in sustainable agriculture for the future

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