Plant genetic engineering is in
plants have the potential to solve many of the world’s
hunger and malnutrition problems, and to help protect and
preserve the environment by reducing reliance upon chemical
pesticides and herbicides and increasing yield.
Yet there are many challenges ahead for govern- ments,
especially in the areas of safety testing, regulation,
international policy and food labeling. Many people feel
that genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the
future and that we cannot afford to ignore a technology that
has such enormous potential benefits.
system for plants (the bacterium Agrobacterium
tumefaciens),Plant tissue can redifferentiate (a trans-
formed piece of leaf may be regenerated to a whole plant).
Plant transformation and regeneration are relatively easy
for a variety of plants.
First genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using
an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant and first genetically
modified food was Flavr Savr Tomato which was resistant to
Another genetically modified food is golden rice (Pro
Vitamin A enriched). Several other genetically modified
foods include, soybeans, corn, cotton, seed oil etc have
TECHNIQUE USED FOR THE PURPOSE
Over the last several years, use of the “gene gun” has
become a very common method to transform plants. For
example, transformation of rice by this method is now
routine.Another method to get foreign genes into cereals is
by electroporation: a jolt of electricity is used to
puncture self-repairing holes in protoplasts (i.e., the cell
without the cell wall), and DNA can insert inside.
Benefits of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
Genetic engineering may ultimately have their most
significant effect on agriculture. Recent advances have
raised possibility of development of new plant germplasm
through introduction of any gene from any organism into
plant.Some useful benefits of genetically modified plants in
agricultural biotechnology are:
Improved nutritional quality
Better Nitrogen Fixation
Enhanced efficiency of minerals used by plants to prevent
early exhaustion of fertility of soil.
Production of valuable Proteins
Production of Disease Resistant Plants
Insect resistant plants
So far a number of
genetically engineered plant varieties have been developed.
The population of world has reached 6 billion people and is
predicted to double in the next 50 years. Ensuring an
adequate food supply for this booming population is going to
be a major challenge in the years to come.
Malnutrition is common in
third world countries where poor peoples rely on a single
crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet.
However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all
necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could
be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and
minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated.
Pharmaceuticals Medicines and
vaccines often are costly to produce and sometimes require
special storage conditions not readily available in third
world countries. Researchers are working to develop edible
vaccines in tomatoes and some other fruits also.
Soil and groundwater
pollution continues to be a problem in all parts of the
world. Plants such as poplar trees have been genetically
engineered to clean up heavy metal pollution from
Disturbance of food chain.
The production of GMOs has negative impacts on the natural
ecosystem which are not apparent now but will be apparent in
the future. For example, genetic changes in a particular
plant or animal might render it harmful to another organism
higher up in the food chain and ultimately this effect may
build up to destroy the entire food chain in which that
plant plays a role.
Reduced effectiveness of pesticides Just as some populations
of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned
pesticide DDT, many people are concerned that insects will
become resistant to B.t. or other crops that have been
genetically-modified to produce their own pesticides.
Gene transfer to non-target species another concern is that
crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds
will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide
resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These
“superweeds” would then be herbicide tolerant as well.
Human health risks
Allergenicity: Many children in the US and Europe and
other part of world have developed life-threatening
allergies to peanuts and other foods. There is a possibility
that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new
allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible
individuals. Extensive testing of GM foods may be required
to avoid the possibility of harm to consumers with food
allergies. Labeling of GM foods and food products will
acquire new importance.
PLANT GENETIC ENGINEERING
Pakistan is a major food aid recipient country since 2003
but there are no issues related to imports of GM
(genetically modified) food aided to Pakistan. Pakistan has
received significant quantities of soybean oil, wheat,
non-fat dry milk and tallow from United States under various
US funded assistance programs.
In public sector, a number of
crops like cotton, rice, wheat, corn, potato, ground nut are
being genetically developed locally or with the
collaboration of Chinese seed companies which have not
passed through Pakistan regulatory system. Pakistan’s major
export items include cotton yarn, cotton fabric and other
items manufactured from cotton.
During current year,
Government of Pakistan (GoP) approved eight biotech
varieties of cotton for their commercial cultivation. The Bt
gene technology has been developed in Pakistan by Centre of
Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), Lahore.
Several other stacked gene
products are in the pipeline and will be put for approval
very soon. The National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC)
also claims that Pakistan can increase corn production by
adopting GM technology and that transgenes that have been
commercialized in corn so far are protective (insect
resistant, herbicide tolerant, etc.) rather than productive.
A number of GM crops such as
rice for Bacterial blight resistance and insect resistance
under field trial and ready for release. While some other
crops such as potato, tobacco and cucurbits for virus
resistance; sugarcane and chickpea for insect resistance and
tomato for male sterility and salinity tolerance are under
developmental and experimental stages.
It is obvious from the given
list of disadvantages of genetic engineering above that
there is need to proceed with caution in use and the
absolute necessity of creating as well as enforcing ethical
legislation to prevent misuse also.
public interest groups, professional associations and other
and government officials have all raised concerns about GM
foods, and criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit
without concern for potential hazards, and the government
for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight.
National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) and Pakistan
Science Foundation (PSF) are also supporting this idea. They
are trying to increase awareness among the people about
importance GM Food by making poster and writing article.
Pakistan Science Foundation