Friday, June 25, 2010

Traditional and Modern Food Biotechnology By George Royal

With the increase in the global demand for food and food products, scientists all over the world have been probing the possibility of finding a way to increase crop yields, enhance and improve the nutritional value and taste, while protecting the environment by reducing the use of chemicals such as pesticides. This is where biotechnology comes into the picture by providing the required technology to achieve those.
Traditional and Modern Food Biotechnology:
Food biotechnology is not a new concept. It had already been used long before the term itself was coined. For centuries, man has been exploiting biology to make food products such as bread, beer, wine, and cheese. For example, man had already learnt the method of fermenting fruit juices to concoct alcoholic beverages during the period around 6000 BC. Traditionally, the most common form of food biotechnology is the process in which seeds from the highest yielding and best tasting corn are grown each year, resulting in the better yield year after year.
The process of obtaining the best traits in food products became much easier with the introduction of "genetic engineering" and "gene cloning" in modern food biotechnology about two decades ago. Now, by transferring and altering genes, scientists can remove certain genetic characteristics from units and move it into the genetic code of another, to make them more resistant to diseases, richer in vitamins and minerals, etc. Food biotechnology has also made plant breeding safer since single genes can now be transferred without moving thousands, making it possible to identify those defective genes or their proteins which may be harmful or toxic.
In the United States and many parts of the world, crops and food products such as soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, papaya, and squash produced through biotechnology have become significant components of the people's diet.
What are the Benefits?
Nutrition: Foods that are genetically engineered or produced through food biotechnology are more nutritious because they tend to contain more vitamin and minerals since they are made from a combination of select traits that are considered to be the best.
Safety: Foods from biotechnology are much safer because the possibility of toxin content is almost minimal in comparison to those grown traditionally. This is because any gene containing toxin or suspected to be toxic is removed during transferring and altering of genes.
Better Yield: Food biotechnology seems to increase crop yields by introducing food crops that are more resistant to harsh climates, decreasing the amount of diseased units, and improving the productivity of a particular crop etc. This becomes very practical considering the amount of food in demand, and consumed globally.
Reducing the need for chemical insecticides: Food biotechnology also opens the possibility of producing crops that are naturally or self-resistant to diseases and pests. For example, the gene for a bacterial protein which kills insect pests has successfully been introduced into a range of crops, reducing the need for chemical insecticides. Pest-protected crops also allow for less potential exposure of farmers and groundwater to chemical residues.
Biotechnology HQ articles and information about the science of biotechnology.
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