Genetic modification and gene editing have a nagging specter of controversy and uncertainty. While the science behind these technologies is still in its infancy, companies worldwide have begun screening single genes for their potential to increase crop yields like Blueberry Crumble Feminized. Though some of the identified genes have shown promise, companies have cut back on or stopped researching genes related to crop yields. What’s the future of gene technology? Will it be as useful as it was envisioned?
The future of crop and livestock production could be radically altered through the application of gene technology. This groundbreaking technology offers unprecedented opportunities to enhance crop and livestock tolerance to a wide range of abiotic and biotic stresses. Climate change is also expected to exacerbate many of these threats, including pest and disease outbreaks. This emerging technology could help farmers adapt to these new threats by boosting crop yields and managing climate change.
Plant breeders have long used genetic engineering to make changes to crop varieties, but it takes years to do so. Using gene editing technology can reduce this process to just six months. This method is equivalent to a high-powered rifle, as it reduces imprecision and randomness. A genetically modified crop costs $130 million and takes 13 years to commercialize. It can dramatically increase agricultural yields, but there are many challenges associated with genetic engineering.
A recent study conducted by Rothamsted Research found that two traits combined with each other could boost crop yields by up to 60 percent. By contrast, yield increases of US crops over the past 50 years have averaged only one to three percent annually. What’s more, yield gains in other countries have been less than half that. Nevertheless, this is encouraging news for farmers. The new technologies may be the future of agricultural production.
To make this process work, scientists studied the genes that function like master switches in plants. One gene that could help boost yields was zmm28. Several companies began screening for single genes that could help increase crop yields in 2000. But so far, only a few of these genes have shown significant promise. In the meantime, many companies have reduced or abandoned their research on genes related to crop yields. However, the field of crop improvement is rapidly advancing and could soon become the next big thing.
Genetically modified crops
The EU is pressing African governments to reject the import of biotech agricultural products and reject the sale of genetically modified food. This policy is hampering the development of biotechnology to engineer improved crops for developing countries, which could help reduce reliance on foreign food aid. Europeans have strong anti-GM sentiment and have mandated that foods derived from genetically modified crops should be labeled. Many African farmers fear they will lose out on a lucrative European market if they are unable to certify GM free products.
The United States agriculture industry is a major exporter. In 2001, it generated a $12 billion trade surplus, which helped offset the growing merchandise trade deficit. Genetically modified crops are grown on more than 85% of corn and soybean acres. Despite widespread resistance, the U.S. government has approved more than 400 patented varieties of GMO crops, including corn, soy, and cotton. While critics of GM crops have voiced their concerns, farmers in developing nations have largely embraced them because of the benefits they bring to farmers and consumers alike.
Genetically modified animals
The introduction of genetically modified (GM) animals has raised concerns about their safety. EU legislation requires a comprehensive assessment of the safety of food derived from GM animals. In the EFSA guidance document, specific data requirements and risk assessment methodology are outlined. The document also outlines how a GM animal should be evaluated and approved for use in the EU food supply. A comprehensive assessment is necessary to ensure the safety and sustainability of GM animals.
A number of transgenic technologies are currently being studied for possible application in animal production. Animal genetic engineering involves modifying the genes of different animal species to increase their yields. For example, the fecundity of Merino sheep is increased due to the presence of a single autosomal gene named Boroola fecundity. In cattle, genetically modified pigs, meanwhile, can help protect groundwater and soil. Pigs do not fully utilize dietary phosphorus, and the resultant waste products may be a significant source of pollution.
GM crops, which are genetically modified to improve the performance of the growing season, are a key component in today’s agricultural practices. Although they are controversial, they can drastically increase yields and reduce the cost of staple crops. These crops have proven to be highly useful in improving the yields of staple crops, such as maize, wheat, and soybeans. In addition, they cut the use of pesticides and are more environmentally-friendly than their conventional counterparts. The debate over GM crops has also been largely oversimplified.
In the U.S., for example, GM cotton has helped India become the world’s leading cotton exporter. Yet, a more polarizing debate has arisen over GM cotton. While GM cotton has greatly improved the yields in India, it has had mixed results in other countries. Furthermore, some harmful insects developed resistance to the intended treatments. Another controversial crop, GM soybeans, has produced a disastrous yield for farmers.
With global warming increasing the temperature, droughts and heatwaves are increasingly common and have the potential to seriously destabilize crop yields. One option to combat these conditions is to improve plant genotypes and develop new varieties with improved tolerance to drought and salt. Scientists have developed heat-stable genes, which allow crops to better tolerate hotter temperatures. Tests have shown that crop yields increased in hot weather by as much as 68 percent in maize, rice, and wheat.
While crops are sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation, the effect of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration is the most likely to reduce crop yields. Unlike precipitation changes, however, regional temperature changes are much more predictable. Based on published results, researchers can predict global mean annual temperature changes and similar effects at the site and country level. These findings suggest the potential of climate change gene technology to help growers boost yields.