by Kaveendri Jayasinghe
Biotechnology has been made use of since Neolithic times, to produce food and other goods; however, it is only in current times that the apprehension of and the ability to manipulate microbial genomes have successfully influenced and revolutionised industrial manufacturing, to develop novel manufacturing processes that are cleaner and more beneficial for the environment with minimised economic expenses.
In relevance to food production, biotechnology may refer to as green biotechnology. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a product of innovative new biotechnology is certainly, the introduction of Genetically Modified crops or GM crops, a particularly controversial technology but no doubt an effective one; it refers to the transfer of genes through a series of lab techniques for gene cloning, DNA splicing using molecular scissors and the insertion of those genes into cells and cultivating them to produce an organism with the desired traits and characteristics (Saha et al., 2019). Examples of these characteristics are insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, virus resistance, disease resistance, temperature tolerance, delayed fruit ripening, increased dietary value and more (Temesgen et al., 2021).
Another example is tissue culture and micropropagation, one of the more eminent examples of green biotechnology, is the process of expeditiously proliferating stock plant material in tissue culture to produce numerous progeny plants in a restricted time and space. It is an exceptional method of mass-producing genetically modified breeds of crops, pathogen-free transplants, seedless varieties and even plants that do not react well to asexual reproduction (Bhatia et al., 2015).
How do tissue culture and micropropagation as well as GM crops help the environment you may ask? Due to the lack of requirement of a large area, it can produce more food on less land, by reducing the number of crops lost to disease and pests, therefore reducing the area of land lost to deforestation. It also results in the reduction of land use activities which can produce emissions of greenhouse gases such as Carbondioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (FAOSTAT ANALYTICAL BRIEF 18 Emissions due to agriculture Global, regional, and country trends, 2000).
The reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides has increased exponentially due to the increase in the human population and the global demand for food that comes with it. The agricultural ecosystem, soil fertility and cultivated crop growth get affected due to excessive usage of chemical pesticides to appeal to this demand (Zhang et al., 2018). A solution to these problems comes with the introduction of biofertilizers and biopesticides; biofertilizers are substances that contain microbes which aid the growth of plants by colonizing the rhizosphere (plant interior) and increasing the nutrient supply (Vessey, 2003); biopesticides, which are produced from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria and even some minerals, are classified into 3 major classes: Biochemical, Microbial and Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) (US EPA, OCSPP, 2019). These are viable solutions to the current issues apropos to chemical fertilizers and pesticides and their effects on the environment; its implementation could reduce the air and water pollution occurring because of increased chemical fertilizer and pesticide usage.
A recently developed technique is concocted and converted directly from biomass and liquidated to generate biofuel in the energy industry. Ethanol and biodiesel make up the first generation of biofuel technologies. Various plant materials, commonly referred to as “biomass,” can be used to produce the sustainable fuel ethanol (CH3CH2OH) (Capitol.Net, 2010). Adding yeast to sugars causes them to ferment, which results in the production of ethanol. E85, a gasoline-ethanol mixture containing 51% to 83% ethanol, is the fuel that is specifically used to build and develop automobiles referred to as “flexible fuel vehicles.” Since biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable, it is a superior and more environmentally friendly substitute for petroleum-based diesel. Biodiesel is a liquid fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats. Since it is non-toxic and biodegradable, biodiesel, a liquid fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats, is a superior and more environmentally friendly substitute for petroleum-based diesel. Any percentage of biodiesel can be used to incorporate into petroleum diesel, such as B20 (20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum-diesel) and B100 (pure biodiesel). Higher biofuel percentages in gasoline blends may minimize the adverse aspects of fossil fuel production, often including Greenhouse gas (GHG )emissions and pollutant emissions (Energy.gov, n.d.).
To summarise, there are vast and numerous biotechnologies being implemented in traditional industrial and agricultural processes that will eventually replace old methods for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. From GM crops to biodiesel and even cultivated meat! – there is no limitation to the multitude of possibilities that will come with these innovative biotechnologies that will, undoubtedly, change the world.
- National Research Council (US) Committee on a National Strategy for Biotechnology. (1987). Gene transfer methods applicable to agricultural organisms. National Academies Press.
- Vessey, J. K. (2003). Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria as biofertilizers. Plant and Soil, 255(2), 571–586. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1026037216893
- Capitol.net, I. (2010). Energy ethanol. Alexandria, Va: Thecapitol.net. Energy: Ethanol: The production and Use of biofuels, Biodiesel, and ethanol Agriculture-Based Renewable Energy Production Including Corn and Sugar the Ethanol Blend Wall.
- Bhatia, S., Sharma, K., & Dahiya, R. (2015). Modern applications of plant biotechnology in pharmaceutical sciences. Academic Press.
- Morán-Diez, M. E., & Glare, T. R. (2016). What are microbial-based biopesticides? Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1477, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-6367-6_1
- Lu Zhang, Chengxi Yan, Qing Guo, Junbiao Zhang, Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar. (2018, August 22). The impact of agricultural chemical inputs on environment: global evidence from informetrics analysis and visualization. Https://academic.oup.com/ijlct/article/13/4/338/5077788.
- Saha, S. K., Saikot, F. K., Rahman, M. S., Jamal, M. A. H. M., Rahman, S. M. K., Islam, S. M. R., & Kim, K.-H. (2019). Programmable molecular scissors: Applications of a new tool for genome editing in biotech. Molecular Therapy. Nucleic Acids, 14, 212–238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.omtn.2018.11.016
- Biofuel basics. (n.d.). Energy.gov. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/biofuel-basics