CSS 2021 Solved Environmental Science Past Paper | How can Biotechnology, Bioengineering, and the Increasing Use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Help Us to Deal with Increasing Food Demands?
Aqsa Tanveer, the highest scorer in the CSS Environmental Science paper, attempts the following question. The answer is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. This solved past paper question is uploaded to help aspirants understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.
In this question, the examiner enquires about biotechnology, bioengineering and the increasing use of genetically modified organisms to deal with increasing food demands. An inclusive and appropriate outline is mandatory to interpret the question better. You have to begin with an introduction and a glance at the concept of biotechnology. Furthermore, the difference between traditional biotechnology and bioengineering must be described to address the first part of the question. Then, it would be best if you illustrate the role of genetically modified organisms in dealing with increasing food demands in the most effective manner. As a way forward, you have to present the benefits of genetically modified organisms for developing countries. For value addition, diagrams and flow charts can play an influential role. A satisfactory conclusion must be given at the end to summarize the whole question.
2- A Glance at the concept of biotechnology
3- Genetic engineering differs from traditional biotechnology
4- Role of genetic engineering and GMOs in dealing with increasing food demands
- ✓Increase in productivity of crops
- ✓ Better protection of crops
- ✓Improvements in food processing
- ✓Improved nutritional value and better flavour
- ✓Fresher produce
- ✓Environmental benefits for sustainability
- Reduce food loss and waste
- Improve crop breeding
- Improve soil and water management
- Link productivity gains with the the protection of natural ecosystems
- Improve productivity and environmental performance of aquaculture
5- Benefits for developing states
Answer to the Question
Advances in the field of molecular biology provided scientists with the ability to manipulate DNA, the chemical building blocks that specify the characteristics of living organisms at the molecular level. This technology is called genetic engineering. It also allows the transfer of DNA between more distantly related organisms than was possible with traditional breeding techniques. Today, this technology has reached a stage where scientists can take one or more specific genes from nearly any organism, including plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses, and introduce those genes into another organism. An organism that has been transformed using genetic engineering techniques is referred to as a transgenic organism or a genetically engineered organism. Many other terms are in popular use to describe these aspects of today’s biotechnology. The term “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” is widely used, although genetic modification has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years, since deliberate crosses of one variety or breed with another result in offspring that are genetically modified compared to the parents. Similarly, foods derived from transgenic plants have been called “GMO foods,” “GMPs” (genetically modified products), and “biotech foods.” Some refer to foods developed from genetic engineering technology as “biotechnology-enhanced foods. For the reasons discussed later in this publication, controversy affects various issues related to the growing of genetically engineered organisms and their use as foods and feeds.
“Don’t be fearful of risks. Understand them, and manage and minimize them to an acceptable level.”
A Glance at the concept of biotechnology
Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques to modify and improve plants, animals, and microorganisms to enhance their value. Agricultural biotechnology is the area of biotechnology involving agriculture applications. Agricultural biotechnology has been practiced for a long time as people have sought to improve agriculturally important organisms by selection and breeding. An example of traditional agricultural biotechnology is the development of disease-resistant wheat varieties by cross-breeding different wheat types until the desired disease resistance was present in a resulting new variety.
Role of genetic engineering and GMOs in dealing with increasing food demands
In traditional breeding, crosses are made in a relatively uncontrolled manner. The breeder chooses the parents to cross, but at the genetic level, the results are unpredictable. DNA from the parents recombines randomly, and desirable traits, such as pest resistance, are bundled with undesirable traits, such as lower yield or poor quality. Traditional breeding programs are time-consuming and labour-intensive. A great deal of effort is required to separate undesirable from desirable traits, and this is not always economically practical. For example, plants must be back-crossed again and again over many growing seasons to breed out undesirable characteristics produced by random mixing of genomes. Current genetic engineering techniques allow segments of DNA that code genes for specific characteristics to be selected and individually recombined in the new organism. Once the code of the gene that determines the desirable trait is identified, it can be selected and transferred. Similarly, genes that code for unwanted traits can be removed. Through this technology, changes in a desirable variety may be achieved more rapidly than with traditional breeding techniques. The presence of the desired gene controlling the trait can be tested for at any stage of growth, such as in small seedlings in a greenhouse tray. The precision and versatility of today’s biotechnology enable improvements in food quality and production to take place more rapidly than when using traditional breeding.
1- Increased crop productivity
Biotechnology has helped to increase crop productivity by introducing such qualities as disease resistance and increased drought tolerance to the crops. Now, researchers can select genes for disease resistance from other species and transfer them to important crops.
2- Enhanced crop protection
Farmers use crop-protection technologies because they provide cost-effective solutions to pest problems which, if left uncontrolled, would severely lower yields. As mentioned above, crops such as corn, cotton, and potato have been successfully transformed through genetic engineering to make a protein that kills certain insects when they feed on the plants. The protein is from the soil bacterium, which has been used for decades as the active ingredient of some “natural” insecticides. In some cases, an effective transgenic crop-protection technology can control pests better and more cheaply than existing technologies. Organic farmers apply it as an insecticide to control insect pests in their crops.
3- Improvements in food processing
The first food product resulting from genetic engineering technology to receive regulatory approval, in 1990, an enzyme produced by genetically engineered bacteria. Its benefits include increased purity, reliable supply, cost reduction, and high yield.
4- Improved nutritional value and Better flavor
Genetic engineering has allowed new options for improving the nutritional value, flavor, and texture of foods. Transgenic crops in development include soybeans with higher protein content, potatoes with more nutritionally available starch and improved amino acid content, beans with more essential amino acids, and rice with the ability to produce beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, to help prevent blindness in people who have nutritionally inadequate diets. Better flavor can be altered by enhancing the activity of plant enzymes that transform aroma precursors into flavoring compounds. Transgenic peppers and melons with improved flavor are currently in field trials.
5- Fresher produce
Genetic engineering can result in improved keeping properties to make the transport of fresh produce easier, giving consumers access to nutritionally valuable whole foods and preventing decay, damage, and loss of nutrients. Transgenic tomatoes are produced with delayed softening. Research is underway to make similar modifications to broccoli, carrots and melons. The shelf life of some processed foods, such as peanuts, has also been improved by using ingredients that have had their fatty acid profile modified.
6- Environmental benefits
When genetic engineering results in reduced pesticide dependence, we have fewer pesticide residues on foods, we reduce pesticide leaching into groundwater, and we minimize farm worker exposure to hazardous products. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), increases in the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans were associated with a small increase in yield.
Benefits for developing countries
Genetic engineering technologies can help to improve health conditions in less developed countries. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Institute for Plant Sciences inserted genes from a daffodil and a bacterium into rice plants to produce “golden rice,” which has sufficient beta-carotene to meet total vitamin A requirements in developing countries with rice-based diets. This crop has the potential to significantly improve vitamin uptake in poverty-stricken areas where vitamin supplements are costly and difficult to distribute, and vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness in children.
“The biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning”
To sum up, responsible scientists, farmers, food manufacturers, and policymakers recognize that the use of transgenic organisms should be considered very carefully to ensure that they pose no environmental and health risks, or at least no more than the use of current crops and practices. Modern biotechnology represents unique applications of science that can be used for the betterment of society through the development of crops with improved nutritional quality, resistance to pests and diseases, and reduced cost of production. Biotechnology, in the form of genetic engineering, is a facet of science that has the potential to provide important benefits if used carefully and ethically. Society should be provided with a balanced view of the fundamentals of biotechnology and genetic engineering, the processes used in developing transgenic organisms, the types of genetic material used, and the benefits and risks of the new technology. ‘‘The rewards for biotechnology are tremendous: to solve disease, eliminate poverty, age gracefully.’’
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