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Genetically modified Fruits (strawberries)

Foods can be genetically modified to improve its appearance. For example, strawberries can be genetically modified to have a different colour.

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Phytoremediation

Genetically Modified Plants :Phytoremediation

Phytoremediation is actually a genneric term for several ways in which plants can be used to clean up contaminated soils and water. Plants may break down or degrade organic pollutants, or remove and stabilize metal contaminants. The methods used to phytoremediate metal contaminants are slightly different to those used to remediate sites polluted with organic contaminants.

Not all GM plants are grown as crops. 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 soil.

 

Higher Level of Nutrition

Genetically Modified Food: Nutrition (Tomato)

Tomato- a type of genetically modified food with a higher level of nutrition

Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished 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. For example, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in third world countries. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences have created a strain of “golden” rice containing an unusually high content of beta-carotene (vitamin A) Since this rice was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation a non-profit organization, the Institute hopes to offer the golden rice seed free to any third world country that requests it. Plans were underway to develop a golden rice that also has increased iron content. However, the grant that funded the creation of these two rice strains was not renewed, perhaps because of the vigorous anti-GM food protesting in Europe, and so this nutritionally-enhanced rice may not come to market at all

Pharmaceuticals

Genetically Modified Food: Pharmaceuticals article

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 potatoes These vaccines will be much easier to ship, store and administer than traditional injectable vaccines.

Drought/Salinity Tolerant Crops

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A typical process for development of drought tolerant crop using biotechnology. Traditional process is indicated by blue arrows. Green arrows indicate use of high throughput phenotype analysis for optimization of crop phenotypes.

As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places.

Disease Resistant Crops

Genetically Modified Foods: Diesease resistant crops- Mechanism

When a farmer grows a crop variety that is resistant to certain disease-causing pathogens, the invader is quickly recognised by the plant and specific defences are activated. These defences stop the pathogen in its tracks and no disease develops. If the crop variety is not resistant, but is susceptible to those pathogens, the invading pathogen manages to avoid recognition by the plant. The pathogen can then infect the plant, colonise it, and cause disease. The susceptible plant has all of the defences it needs to deal with invading pathogens, but because it fails to recognise the invader, the defences are not activated. However, it is possible to by-pass the recognition process and to directly activate the defences. This is known as induced resistance and it can be triggered in plants using compounds known as elicitors. These elicitors can work in two ways, they can activate defences directly, or they can activate defences only following pathogen attack. The latter is called priming and is potentially very useful, since it leads to the deployment of defences only when there is real danger.

There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.

Herbicide Tolerant Crops

Herbicides sprayed on Herbicide tolerant GM Crops

Above shows herbicides being sprayed on herbicide tolerant crops

For some crops, it is not cost-effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides (weed-killer) to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process, that requires care so that the herbicide doesn’t harm the crop plant or the environment. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. For example, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup. A farmer grows these soybeans which then only require one application of weed-killer instead of multiple applications, reducing production cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run-off.

Pest Resistant Crops

Genetically Modified food: Pest resistance (Corn)

Corn- a type of pest resistant crop

Crop losses from the destruction of insect pests can be staggering, resulting in major financial losses for farmers and a lack of food in developing countries. Farmers usually use tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers do enjoy eating food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards, and run-off of agricultural wastes from the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers can potentially poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. Growing GM foods such as B.t. corn can help reduce the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market.