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Biotechnology and its Applications

What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is a modern technology that makes use of organisms (or parts thereof) to: make or modify products; improve and develop microorganisms, plants or animals; or develop organisms for specific purposes in a more precise manner.

Tools of biotechnology can be used to make products for agricultural, industrial, medical, and environmental applications.

How is biotechnology different from the traditional way of improving crops?
Biotechnology allows scientists to precisely introduce a desired character by being able to insert only specific genes into a plant. Traditional crop improvement entails a long process of hybridization and selection. It involves numerous combinations of traits that require a large population to be able to select a plant with the desired trait. What is the scientific basis of biotechnology?
All plants, animals, and living organisms have cells, the basic unit of life.

Within cells are hereditary materials generally composed of deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). These hereditary materials (that determine a trait) are called genes. Through biotechnology, the gene fragments can be inserted from one organism to another, within related and unrelated species, to improve specific traits.

What are the tools used in biotechnology?
Gene Cloning - identification and isolation of specific DNA fragments that are introduced into a self-replicating genetic element so that the fragment can be reproduced and expressed in the target organism.

Tissue Culture - a technique that involves culturing plant parts and animal cells under laboratory conditions.

Microbial culture - a method of multiplying microbial organisms.

DNA-marker technology - involves the identification of DNA fragments associated with a certain desired trait and its utilization.

Genetic Engineering - the manipulation, introduction, and expression of specific genes or DNA in the target organisms. This is the method used in developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology, ” and sometimes, “recombinant DNA technology.”

Why do we need crop biotechnology?
To be able to develop crops with increased yield, improved food, nutrient and other agronomic qualities, multiple disease and insect resistance, and tolerance to abiotic stresses in a short and precise manner. What is a GM/biotech crop?
A GM/biotech or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology. How are novel genes inserted into plants?
Several methods currently exist for introducing transgenes into plant genomes. The most commonly used involves a device called “biolistic or gene gun.” The DNA to be introduced into the plant cells is coated on to tiny gold or tungsten particles. These particles are then physically shot into plant cells. Some of the DNA comes off and is incorporated into the DNA of the recipient plant.

Another method uses the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens to introduce the gene(s) of interest into the plant DNA through transfection.The cells are screened to identify which successfully took up the desired gene and are then evaluated for the expression of the new trait. When crops reach the field stage, the seeds are sown in the field and grown the same way as any other crop. These plants just have the new and desired trait.

Why make GM/biotech crops?
GM technology can address problems that cannot be solved through conventional crop improvement methods.
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