Could Unleashing Agricultural Biotechnology Impart Environmental Benefits Amid Growing Crop Demands?
Agricultural biotechnology is a rapidly growing field that aims to improve agricultural productivity, enhance crop and animal health, and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. This field is at the forefront of innovation in agriculture with new developments and trends emerging all the time.
For many years, biotech products are regulated by organizations, such as USDA, FDA, EPA, and somewhat by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Previously, these federal entities were concerned about the impact of biotech products on protecting human and environmental health. However, in addition to that organizations are now focusing on streamlining the approval process for biotech products to reduce the cost and time for reviewing them. Recently, the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, “Bangladesh seems as the most willing nation that comes forward to adopt a modern agricultural policy network with the utilization of biotechnology, while India is not yet able to make a strong decision regarding genetically engineered crops.”
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are produced by transferring a gene into a crop or animal. This transferred gene produces a protein that acts as a restraint to certain insects. Presently, according to a report published by Research Dive, a growing need for biotech corporations to improve the nutritional value of crops and fulfill the increasing demand for food products owing to the rising population globally is expected to foster the growth of the global agriculture biotech market in the coming future. The market is anticipated to garner $214.6 billion in revenue and grow at a CAGR of 8.8% over the analysis period from 2022 to 2031. The major players of the market include Corteva, KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, Limagrain, and many more.
Incorporation of Agriculture Biotechnology to Streamline the Regulatory Process
Presently, federal review procedures are constraining small companies, universities, small entities, and USDA-Agricultural Research Service facilities. Out of a hundred approved biotech crops, only three food items including papaya, plum, and flax are developed by smaller entities. This is mainly due to the expensive and time taking review process. However, these regulatory hurdles support major and larger companies including Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, and many more, which play a vital role in the development of crucial crops that are more profitable. But excluding smaller entities from the marketplace by imposing regulatory barriers can diminish innovation and competition and restrict economic development.
In such cases, the incorporation of agricultural biotechnology can help in making a positive, timesaving, cost-effective, and profitable move by streamlining the regulatory process. Apart from auditing the entire past regulatory reviews to detect hazardous crops, the regulatory process should include the method of identifying the gene coding for an allergen in the crop that was not present previously. This could balance the cost of the review process. In coming years, it is expected that federal agencies will be able to reduce the time and cost of the review process of new biotech crops.
In recent years, with the rigorous development of technology, the agriculture sector is continuously adopting new trends for efficient crop production. Some of the emerging trends of agricultural biotechnology that comforts the environment are discussed below:
- Genome Editing: It is one of the most exciting developments in agricultural biotechnology. This technology has the potential to revolutionize agriculture by enabling the creation of crops and livestock that are resistant to pests and diseases. CRISPR/Cas9 is a tool used in genome editing technology that allows scientists to make precise edits to the DNA of organisms. This technology has already been used across developed countries including the U.S. to produce crops resistant to pests. CRISPR-edited mushrooms are one of the end products that were approved for sale in the U.S. in 2020.
- Vertical Farming: It is another trend in agriculture that can optimize the use of resources. This method of farming has the potential to revolutionize agriculture by allowing crops to be grown in urban areas, reducing transportation costs, and minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture.
- Precision Agriculture: It involves using technologies, such as GPS, drones, and sensors to collect data on soil conditions, weather patterns, and other environmental factors. One of the most stimulating applications of precision agriculture is the development of smart farming systems. These systems use AI and machine learning algorithms to analyze data from sensors and other sources to make real-time decisions about planting, fertilizing, and harvesting crops.
- Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: These products are made from plant-based ingredients but are designed to look, taste, and cook like meat. Plant-based meat alternatives have the strength to revolutionize the meat industry by providing consumers with a sustainable and ethical alternative to traditional meat products. Moreover, this technology is particularly promising for reducing the environmental impact of meat production, which is a significant contributor to climate change.
What are Researchers and Scientists Currently Working On?
With increased crop yields, reduced inputs, and lower impact on soil, water, and air, agricultural biotechnology can bring numerous environmental benefits in the upcoming years. Even though the agriculture sector is going to be benefited, scientists are still continuously working on the development of sustainable crop production procedures. At present, researchers are working on perennial crops that are needed to be planted every few years, crops that can support less irrigation, crops that can fix nitrogen to reduce the need for fertilizers, crops that can confiscate greenhouse gases, and many more effective possibilities in the agriculture sector.
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