Biotechnology and agriculture

Q. How can biotechnology help to improve the living standards of farmers?

In India, the majority of the population is involved in agriculture but it is not remunerative enough, especially in areas which did not go through the stages of the green revolution. In this scenario, biotechnology holds good potential to transform agriculture. It can affect all steps of the production chain, from agrochemical inputs to final food processing.

▪️ Under biotechnology, plants, bacteria, fungi and animals whose genes have been altered by manipulation (Recombinant DNA Technology) are called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). GMO technology has brought significant changes in agriculture and areas related to it.

▪️Tissue Culture is the science of cultivating animal/ plant tissue in a prepared medium. Technologies based on this can be harnessed to achieve crop improvement objectives.

▪️ Crops have been made more tolerant to abiotic stresses (cold, drought, salt, heat) so the farmers do not have to worry about the weather conditions and can help plants adapt to environmental stress and climate change.

▪️ It has reduced reliance on chemical pesticides (pest-resistant crops) which is pocket-friendly for the farmers and eco-friendly for the consumer by eliminating harmful chemicals from the ecosystem.

▪️ Post-harvest losses have been reduced by increasing crops’ abilities to withstand the transportation period without being perished.

▪️ Efficiency of mineral usage by plants has been increased by it (this prevents early exhaustion of fertility of soil), so a piece of land can be used for a long time for equally good yields.

▪️ It has enhanced the nutritional value of food (like Vitamin A enriched rice) which increases the market value of the product, profiting the farmers and improving human health.

▪️ Plants developed using biotechnology naturally resist specific insects, weed plants and diseases so there is no loss of crop due to these reasons. (Like Bt crops).

▪️ In addition, it has been used to create tailor-made plants to supply alternative resources to industries, in the form of starches, fuels and pharmaceuticals etc. which can boost the agricultural-industrial relations uplifting the farmers.

The benefits of biotechnology are especially meaningful at a time when our global population is growing and our demand for food is increasing, mainly in developing countries. Biotechnology allows farmers to grow more food on less land using environmentally sustainable farming practises which are necessary for them to have a good income and a better living standard. Biotechnology is a powerful tool to feed an increasing world population, but its “positive and negative potential” should be carefully evaluated.

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