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19 September 2019

Biology of agricultural future

Irreversible climate changes have significantly affected farming, both open ground and greenhouse farming. Plants can no longer adapt to warmer temperatures, aggressive pests, unstable weather and earlier vegetative periods.

The world immediately began to react negatively to genetic engineering, proving the harm of the products being removed. However, the negative impact of genetically modified plants on the body has not been proven, while GM crops can bring big profits to business and feed a growing population.

Major cultures, new opportunities

Thanks to genetic engineering, many plants have gained new properties. Some of the most interesting developments:

The first tomatoes. The first transgenic vegetable that came on the shelves from commercial cultivation, known as Flavr Savr. Tomatoes are usually harvested unripe and then treated with ethylene (natural gas that accelerates ripening) so that they turn red.

Scientists removed the enzyme polygalacturonase (PG), which helped soften the structure of the fetus. Such tomatoes ripen on the vine and have a long shelf life. After the global giant, retailer Monsanto, bought out Calgene, the Flavr Savr tomatoes disappeared from the market.

Soybean Soy. Before, soybean cultivation required the use of herbicides for both narrow and broad-leaved weeds. Strengthening the soybean genome allowed the plant to become resistant to various herbicides, including - to glyphosate. This allowed farmers to reduce the cost of mandatory processing of fields before planting.

DuPont also used gene silencing to produce Plenish soybean oil. This type of oil has high stability during baking, which means that it does not need to undergo a chemical hydrogenation process, as a result of which unwanted trans fats are formed.

Edible cotton. By their nature, cotton seeds are inedible because they contain gossypol, a component that protects against insects. In 2006, the University of Texas and Cotton Inc. the idea was to create cotton that was resistant to pests, but had edible seeds.

The problem was to leave the plant immune and neutralize the protective toxic compound. Scientists have derived nutty-seed meal from cotton seeds, which, in fact, can be used to make flour. For approximately 500 g of cotton fiber, the plant produces 730 g of seeds. So far, the project is at the certification stage.

Golden rice More than 120 million children in third world countries lack vitamin A, which leads to vision problems and blindness. A research team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Ingo Potrikisa and Syngenta are working on the cultivation of rice with increased levels of beta-carotene - provitamin A.

In 2005, an improved variety was created, called Golden Rice 2, in which the beta-carotene content is 23 times higher compared to the first option. In the new strain, scientists replaced the yellow daffodil gene with the corn gene, which produces much more provitamin A. At the moment, research is not completed due to disputes over property rights and a wave of criticism about the flaws.

Arctic apple. Apples turn brown when cut, so they are often saturated with antioxidants to prevent the fruit from chapping. In 2012, Canadian scientists went on the principle of suppressing existing genes. Since then, two popular apple varieties have been launched - Golden Delicious and Granny Smith - and plan to introduce Gala and Fuji varieties under the Arctic Apple brand, which do not darken.

Similar characteristics have already been developed in some varieties of apples, but not one of them has received significant commercial recognition. The purpose of this study is to prevent darkening of the pulp of the most popular varieties. The same principle that applied to onions applies to these apples: it’s not about adding genes, but about suppressing the activity of existing ones.

Healing carrots. In 2004, an American research team transferred a gene from a mouse’s ear to carrots so that the vegetable contains more organically bound calcium. The results of the study showed that people absorbed 42% more calcium from modified carrots than from ordinary carrots. The purpose of this test was to help prevent osteoporosis, while the focus was on accessibility.

Onions from which they do not cry. In 2008, a research team from New Zealand developed an onion that does not secrete enzymes that make eyes watery. In addition, such bulbs contain healthy sulfur.

Crop distribution

The demand for high-resistant crops among farmers remains high, as well as their high cost in relation to traditional breeding. There are rules. Before a GM crop becomes available for commercial use, it must undergo rigorous safety and risk assessment procedures.

In 1996, when the first modified varieties reached the commercial level, the number of such crops was 1.7 million hectares. 2018 figures show that more than 17 million farmers in 26 countries grow GM crops on an area of 189 million hectares. These are mainly herbicide-resistant crops of soy, corn, cotton and canola; insect-resistant corn, cotton, potatoes and rice; and virus-resistant squash and papaya.

In 2017, 19 developing countries planted 53% (100.6 million ha) of the total world indicator, and 5 industrial countries occupied 47% (89.2 million ha). It is expected that this trend will continue in the coming years due to an increase in the number of countries introducing sowing and commercialization of GM crops.

Genetic engineering of plants allowed blurring the boundaries of nature. Such products are of a completely different quality, appearance and properties. For example, rice with a high content of iron and beta-carotene; fast-ripening bananas that can shorten the assembly period; Tomatoes with a high content of flavonols, which are powerful antioxidants; arsenic resistant plants; food vaccines from fruits and vegetables and more.