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Plant genetic engineering is in progress
By  Tabinda Salman


Plant genetic engineering is in progress  :-Pakissan.comGenetically-modified 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.


Natural transformation 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 rotting.
Another genetically modified food is golden rice (Pro Vitamin A enriched). Several other genetically modified foods include, soybeans, corn, cotton, seed oil etc have been formed.

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.
crop improvement.
Production of valuable Proteins
Vaccine production
Production of Disease Resistant Plants
Herbicide tolerance
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 contaminated.

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Environmental hazards:

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.

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PLANT GENETIC ENGINEERING IN PAKISTAN
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.

Environmental scientists 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.

February, 2013

Source: Pakistan Science Foundation

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