Applications of Transgenic Crops in Crop Production

A global meta-analysis of 147 studies for the last 20 years reported that “on average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%” (Qaim et al, 2014). From 1996 to 2014, transgenic crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and the Environment/Climate Change by increasing crop production valued at US$150 billion; providing a better environment, by saving 584 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2014 alone, reducing CO2 emissions by 27 billion kg, equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road for one year and helped alleviate poverty for ~16.5 million small farmers and their families totaling ~65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world. Notably, the increase from 50,000 ha of Bt cotton in 2002 (when Bt cotton was first commercialized) to 11.6 mha in 2014, represents an unprecedented 230-fold increase in 13 years.

A transgenic plant is one that contains a gene or genes which have been introduced artificially into the plant's genetic makeup using a set of several biotechnology techniques collectively known as recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology. There are three general approaches that can be used to insert the DNA into a plant cell: vector-mediated transformation, particle-mediated transformation, and direct DNA absorption. There are six major applications (1) Resistance to Biotic Stresses (2) Resistance to Abiotic Stresses (3) Improvement of Crop Yield and Quality (4) Transgenic Plants with Improved Nutrition (5) Commercial Transgenic Crop Plants and (6) Transgenic Plants as Bioreactors. Transgenic plants with insect resistance transgenes have been developed. About 40 genes obtained from microorganisms of higher plants and animals have been used to provide insect resistance in crop plants like Bt cotton. α-Amylase inhibitor gene (α-AI-Pv) isolated from bean has been successfully transferred and expressed in tobacco. The gene coding stilbene synthase has been isolated from peanut and introduced into tobacco, rice and Brassica napus which induces phytoalexins production. Fungal resistant tobacco, tomato and carrot have been developed by using chitinase and glucanase producing genes. The gene encoding glyphosate oxidase has been isolated from a soil organism Ochrobactrum anthropi and introduced into crop plants e.g. oilseed rape to provide glyphosate resistance in them. By using choline oxidase gene from Arthrobacter sp, transgenic rice that produces higher glycine betaine (which offers tolerance against water deficit stress) has been developed. Flavr Savr tomato has been developed by using anti sense mRNA technique which checks the rapid ripening of tomato. A group of British scientists have developed an improved version of Golden Rice. The new strain, Golden Rice 2 contains more than 20 times the amount of pro-vitamin A than its predecessor. Edible vaccines are nothing but transgenic plant those that contain agents that trigger an animal’s immune response. In simple terms, edible vaccines are plant or animal made pharmaceuticals. Examples are transgenic potatoes for diarrhea and transgenic tomatoes against diarrhea.

A day is not far off when we will be able to pluck a fruit from the garden, eat it and be protected from diseases…making needles needless…

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph. D in Agronomy from G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar. I have also served as Assistant Professor for 2 years