What if all the world’s food needs were met, or if anyone wanted to get any nutritious food at hand? Although it may sound unusual, there are many botanists who are working on an area of science where a small change in the genetic code of a plant can cause a major food revolution. Our daily available rice or bread will have vitamins A, B, C or many more nutrients. And the production of those paddy and wheat will be many times more than at present. This branch of science is plant breeding, where new traits are constantly being created through genetic engineering. As a result, the dream of building a hunger-free world may come true.
Plant breeders have been working for a long time to produce improved crops. As a result, the yield of some crops has increased by about 50 percent. The development of crop plants actually means increasing its quality, yield, preservation capacity and increasing tolerance against organic and inorganic stress. Over the past few decades, plant breeding has grown in importance to enhance the taste and nutritional value of food and to develop regional varieties of different plants.
The world’s population is growing. At the same time the amount of crop land is decreasing. So now a big challenge for scientists is to produce more crops on less land. In this case, there is no alternative to inventing varieties tolerant to various crop obstacles such as diseases, salinity, drought, waterlogging etc. In addition, it is important to develop high yielding varieties through genetic development.
Innovation of various disease tolerant varieties is currently contributing a lot to agriculture. With the help of plant breeding and genetic engineering, it is possible to grow all the crops by placing genes in the DNA of a crop that can protect themselves from the attack of various types of insects and diseases. In this case, a specific protein is being made from a specific gene, which is toxic to the insects of that crop but not toxic to humans. So people are not having too many problems. An example is Bt brinjal. With the help of genetic engineering, researchers have been able to inject crystal protein from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria into eggplant, which is now its biggest enemy, eggplant tip and fruit borer.
Salinity tolerant varieties are contributing to the increase in crop production in coastal areas. In the case of rice as food, the increase in the yield of a variety is the biggest indicator. The salinity tolerant rice varieties that have now been developed yield more than 4500 kg per hectare even in 0.3% saline soils. Through many years of efforts, breeders have now been able to invent and preserve many salinity tolerant rice varieties. Tolerant varieties are essential for the survival of the plant and to increase its yield against all the ionic stresses and osmotic stresses caused to the plant by salinity.
Due to global water scarcity and drought in agriculture, the yields of many crops have declined. Therefore, the importance of bringing new breeds of water efficient and drought tolerant crops to increase food security in the world is increasing. In the case of plant roots, there is ample opportunity to bring in new features to create a new drought tolerant variety.
Lack of water reduces the leaf size of the plant, also affects the growth of the stems and greatly reduces the yield. So it is important to invent drought tolerant varieties. Scientists are able to create new plants with common Mendelian divisions between plants of the same species in order to improve the crop.
In addition to this, researchers are also creating new varieties to increase crop yields in waterlogged environments. As a result, it is becoming possible to grow plants in the lowlands of Bangladesh where water accumulates for a large part of the year.
Meeting the nutritional needs of the world
More than 640 million people in the world are currently not getting enough nutritious food to meet their energy needs. In addition, about 3 billion people suffer from a lack of various micronutrients. Good vegetables, fruits or fish meat are beyond their purchasing power. Women and children in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Latin America or the Caribbean are particularly at risk of various diseases and premature death due to lack of various essential micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc. A great way to solve all these problems can be to get these nutrients in the foods that are readily available to us.
In the case of plant breeding, the production of orange sweet potatoes can be a success story in meeting the nutritional needs. Biotechnology has shown that orange sweet potatoes are enhanced by biotechnology, which increases the vitamin A uptake of these plants and carries far more vitamins than the common white sweet potato species in Africa. This is really encouraging news where thousands of African children go blind every year due to lack of vitamin A.
After rice, wheat is the most popular food grain in Asia. Where zinc-rich foods are scarce for people in South Asia, the extra zinc in biofortified wheat will work to meet the zinc needs of all people.
The production of Golden Rice is also a major achievement in meeting the demand for Vitamin A. In South and Southeast Asian countries like Bangladesh, where people meet half of their daily calorie needs by eating rice, golden rice will play a big role in reducing the need for vitamin A. In the case of golden rice, beta carotene will increase the quality of rice, which will play a key role in the production of vitamin A. Although beta carotene is present in the leaves or stems of ordinary rice plants, scientists have modified the golden rice in such a way that human food contains beta carotene in rice.
Hybrid and GMO food
Hybrid food refers to food that is not naturally produced but is collected from improved varieties obtained through selected breeding. Hybridization is the production of high yielding plants by human selection in the crossing process. At present, the cultivation of various high yielding hybrid fruits, vegetables or crops has become the source of all major agricultural economies in the world. Examples are seedless watermelon, seedless citrus fruits or improved varieties of cabbage, potatoes, etc.
GMO plants are made by transferring genes of a specific trait derived from another organism into the DNA of that plant. The entry of a gene can change the characteristics of an organism. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are made by modifying the DNA of the plants we need, mainly through genetic engineering. All these hybrid and GMO foods will meet the nutritional needs of the people of our future world and ensure human food security.