Biotechnology and its Impact on Food Security

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23 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 2 μήνες)

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Biotechnology a
nd

its Impact on
Food Security



Mohammad
B.
Habibi


Najafi

& Samira

Yeganehzad


Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Department of Food Science & Technology

P. O.
Box 91779
-
1163
Mashhad
, Iran


**habibi@um.ac.ir


Telephone :
( +98511
)8795619


Fax :( +98511
)8787430







ABST
RACT

A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices
in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into c
hronic hunger
and poverty. The silent hunger crisis


affecting one
-
sixth of all of humanity


poses a serious
risk for world peace and security.
Food production will have to be at least doubled to meet the
needs.

The potential of biotechnology to assist i
n meeting this challenge is far from being fully
exploited.

Nearly 70%

of poor & food insecure people live in rural areas in developing countries.

Low production in agriculture is a major cause of poverty & food insecurity. Biotechnology &
genetic engineer
ing can :1)

facilitate agricultural & rural growth through high
-
yielding varieties
resistant to biotic & abiotic stresses;

2)

reduce pest

associated losses;& 3)

increase the
nutritional values of foods which is a very important factor in rural areas or dev
eloping countries.

Therefore, by applying biotechnology to agriculture,

though we will come across some
controversies,

but we can be hopeful that we have chosen a reliable way,

which will take us to
food security & poverty
reduction in

a near
future,

if we

really intend
to.

In this
review
, the ways which biotechnology & genetic engineering can help us to provide food
security, & how biotechnology can act as a valuable tool to reduce poverty

will be discussed
.


KEYWORDS
:

biotechnology
/

food

security /

pover
ty /

economical issues


INTRODUCTION

Undernourishment exists in 20% of developing countries & is the mai
n cause of 50%

of infant
death.

H
undred millions of infants & mothers have vitamin A &
iodine

deficiency & suffer from
anemia.

In Asia and Africa near
ly 20% of maternal death is claimed by anemia, an unhealthy
condition caused by lack of iron. Iron deficiency also causes more than 400 million women
delivering stillborn and under
-
weight babies.

Undernourishment outbreak in Asia especially the
East

Asia h
ave decreased due to the recent
economical developments,

but this region still locates
about 66%

of chronically under nourished
people.

In south
Asia one

from 5 is chronically under nourished.

FAO believes that in 2010 half
of the undernourished will live
in Asia while
66% will be in south Asia.

W
orld
Bank

believes
that,

undernourishment originating from micronutrient deficiency,

decreases more than 5% of
country
GDP;

meanwhile

cost

for

its solutions is only 0
.
3% of country
GDP.

Undernourishment appears

not

only because of low food receiving,

but also receiving foods with
low macro & micronutrients
which
both
are related to economical issues.

Poverty & food insecurity are 2 main cause of undernourishment & of course the main cause
of
poverty

& food insecurit
y
,

mostly

in developing countries is low production in agriculture
&,
finally

it is believed that population growth,

dry

& arid lands,

drought, low

yield crops,

economical
imbalances

are the main cause of
low production in agriculture.

S
o,

agriculture as
l
ifeblood should be developed to rescue the
740 plus million people going to bed
hungry
everyday
, but how is it possible? Wi
ll it be possible
without application

of new method
s &
technologies

which have

the ability to increase the crop
yield

minimize the cr
op loss due to
pests, produce

foods with high nutritional
value

&
finally resulting in

sustai
na
ble agriculture
&
food
security?

Do you think that can this new method & technology be anything other than genetic

engineering
&
biotechnology?

In this report, w
e will discuss the ways which biotechnology & genetic engineering can help us
to provide food security, & how biotechnology can act as a valuable tool to reduce
poverty.
M
eanwhile
we will have

a glance at the GM food controversies & giving suggestions to h
andle
the challenges in the best way.


BIOTECHNOLOGY
-

AN IDEAL

OPTION

Regarding the economical issues, biotechnology can help us to reduce poverty & food
insecurity by
:


1
-

producing high
-
yielding crops resistant to the biotic & abiotic stresses ;

2
-

reducing
pest associated losses
;

3
-

increasing the nutritional values of foods
;


PRODUCING HIGH
-
YIELDING CROPS RESIS
TANT TO THE BIOTIC &

ABIOTIC
STRESSES

Increasing a crop's ability to withstand environmental stre
sses (
e.g.

extreme pH
,
salt
,

hea
t
,

etc)

will enable g
rowers to farm in those parts of the world currently unsuitable for crop production.

This would lead to increase global food production by reducing crop loss & increasing yield,

while conserving farmland & reduce pressure on
irreplaceable

natural resources

like the rain
forests.

It will also provide developing economics with increase

the

employment opportunities &
increase

the
productivity.

Drought resistance in GM crops will reduce water use in
irrigation
.

This will be very useful in
some tropical or arid

regions where water is scarce.

30% of arable land is characterized by the
poor solubility of iron due to the alkaline soil.

The resulting limitation of plant growth cannot be
alleviated

by fertilizers.

The tolerance of rice to such low iron availability i
n
alkaline

soils could
be improved by genetically engineering the crop to release more iron
-
stabilizing chelators
(Takashi et
al., 2001
).

Aluminum released by acid soil is toxic to crop roots.

30
-
40% of the world's arable land is
affected by acid soils res
ulting in yield losses of up to 80%.

Expression of bacterial citrate
synthase in roots is one of the strategies
presently being

developed to overcome this problem (De
La Fuente
et a
l.
, 1997
)
.

40% of the irrigated land is affected by salinity that genetic e
ngineering can confront this
problem,

also
,

for
example

by introducing sodium pumps

in the plants
.


P
roducing herbicide tolerant crops is another benefit

of

biotechnology application in agriculture
which can
increase the crop yield
.

I
t can be
achieved

by i
ntroducing a gene coding for a target
enzyme intensive to the herbicide or an enzyme detoxifying the herbicide.

Apart from crops resistant to stresses, crop yield can be increased in another way expressed
below:

Major cereal crops which are annuals may be
converted by GM to p
erennials.

T
his would reduce
tillage & erosion,

& lead to conservation of water & nutrients (Jackson,

1991).

It will also
increa
se crop yield during the year.

S
uch perennial crops would decrease labor
costs, improve

labor
allocation, &

generally improve the

sustainability of a
griculture (Alliance for better
f
oods,

1999).


REDUCING THE PEST AS
SOCIATED LOSSES

More than 15% of the world's crops are lost by insect damage & this happens mostly in
developing countries.

Many food

plants,

such

as
soybean, potato
, &
corn have been engine
ered
with Bt gene which produce

Bt protein (an
insecticide)
.

Bt is non
-
toxic to humans,

but is toxic to
insects such as the European corn borer,

cotton

boll
-
worms,

& potato beetles.

T
his toxic Bt
protein eliminate
s the need for chemical pesticides against insects that transmit viruses & other
harmful micro
organisms
.

Alternative strategies to confer insect resistance to
plants, which

might
become of practical importance in the
future,

have been
described (Schuler

et

al
., 1996
).

Crops such as
tobacco, tomato
, squash

& corn have been genetically modified to become virus
resistant. (Liu, 1999; Wood

1995).

Resistance to fungi is conferred by GM

induced biosynthesis
of phytoalexins
. Resistance to fungi is beneficial not
only from a commercial point of view (crop
yield)

but also considering the reduction in carcinogenic mycotoxin
levels. Various

strategies
have been also described to confer the resistance to
bacteria.

Recently a gene swi
t
ching technology was developed by R
ohm & Haas (a food chemical
company); the

gene can be activated in a plant to
simultan
e
ously

improve pest
management,
ripening

& other genetically expressed traits (
Thayer, 1999
)
.

Biotechnology & Genetic engineering by
producing

virus,

fungi &

tolerant cro
ps lead to
increased productivity & cost reduction,

due to reduction in the use of agro
-
chemicals,

thereby
making farming a more profitable & rewarding venture for farmers which is very important for
the poor & food

insecure farmers in developing countri
es & rural areas.



INCREASING THE

NUTRITIONAL VALUES O
F FOODS

-

Macronutrients

Genetic engineering can be used to modify oils to achi
e
ve a reduction in the levels of saturated
fats & trans fatty acids which are responsible for
cholesterol

production in t
he body;

GM can
also be used to increase the levels of unsaturated fatty acids in some comm
o
nly used oils such as
canola,

soybean,

sunflower,

& peanuts (Liue & Brown ,1996) .

Improved protein quality may involve an increase in the methionin & lysine conten
t of protein
(two

essential

amino acid
s
) (Human
, 1997
).

It may be also able to remove the beany flavor in
soybean to expand its consumption & usage in various food
systems.

Modern plant biotechnology has focused very early on the genetic modification of pl
ant
carbohydrate metabolism

(
P
rtesen et

al.,

1995).

Influencing source
-
sink
interactions, improving

starch biosynthesis, changing starch
composition or accumulating

fructans (a prebiotic having
heath
beneficial

effects)

in transgenic crops (Turk & Smeekens

,1999).


-

Micronutrients

It has been estimated that about 1.3billion people suffer from iron deficiency.

In

order to increase
the iron content of
rice, the

major staple food in
Asia, three

approaches have been
proposed:

1
-

introduction of ferritin gene fro
m
P
haseolus vulgaris

into rice ;

2
-

expression of a heat tolerant phytase from
Aspergillus fumigatus

;

3
-

overexpression

of endogenous cystein
-
rich metallothionein
-
like protein (lucca et al.,

2000)
.

B
iotechnology can be used to introduce or concentrate certain
nutrien
t
s such as zinc &
iodine, carotenoids,

flavonoids,

vitamins A,

C

& E into common dietary staple food plants as
a way of delivering optimal levels of key nutrients or fighting some nutritional deficiencies
endemic in some regions of the world,

includ
ing Asia & Africa (Wambugu,1999).




GM FOOD CONTROVERSIE
S & CHALLENGES

In order to trade the GM food & it's consumption by people,

it

should be
pub
l
icly

accepted
,


but
w
henever a new technology
is
develop
ed
,

the crit
i
cs begin to find
its
potential
risks,

though

sometimes
criticizing

fairly,

most of the time try to make challenges by covering the benefits &
declaring
the risk of it's application.

T
his is very common in

food & related industries,

the first
reason is

"
fear of the unknown" & the second

is

m
ay be because of it's
low

profitabi
lity for
some countries & some
special companies,

which do not want to loose their global markets by
the entrance of new foods (mostly cheaper) & new technologies (mostly applicable in rural areas
& developing countries
).

Biotechnology

is one of these new
technologies that

have the highest
number of critics among
others, some

of the reasons for this criticism
are mentioned

abo
ve, these
critics

declare

the potential risks of genetically
modified

foo
d
s as below:

-

Antibiot
ic resistance



-

Potential toxi
ci
ty from GM foods

-

Unintentional gene transfer to wild plants

-

Treat to crop genetic diversity

-

Religious

/cultural /ethical
concerns


-

Concerns for lack of
labeling


-

Concerns for organic & traditional farmers


WH
AT IS THE SOLUTION
?

To solve the GM food
challenges, we

can choose between two different
policies:

1)

total ban , not produce or consume GM food

any more


2)

more research,

study & regulations,

before genetic modification

Considering

the economical issue,

the
first policy is not logical at all.

Because

eliminating this
huge amount of GM food
s

from markets

&
farms will

result in spending
very high

expenses &
because of this total
ban, no

research is done &
GM food will never show
even
its

potential

benefits, so

we have to choose the second
policy.

A
ccording to the second policy
,

g
enetic modification should be adopted under conditions that
avoid potential risks.

T
ime & effort must be devoted to field testing before the release of any
new genetically engineered org
anism or food.

GM products should be evaluated over a long
period of time to establish their effects on health,

agricultural pests,

& the environment .caution
& suitable regulation are necessary to avoid possible environmental &
safety problems
.

Antibiotic

resistance marker genes used in
GM crops

should be evaluated to see if they can be
substituted with other equally
effective selection methods (when available) to prevent potential
risks of antibiotic resistance in human & animals (Hileman 1999).

To preven
t mov
e
ment of
transgene from pollens to relatives of GM crops or to weeds in nearby farms
,

cautions must be
taken
,

for example locating the field test facilities
far away from nearby wild relative or non
-

GM farms
.

Regulatory agencies should set up publi
c health surveillance network that will
quickly flag any problems
(such as allergens,

toxins),

that may arise among people eating GM
foods.

R
esearchers &
regulators
should consider

& assess the treat to crop
diversity before

any
genetic modification.

By ef
ficient

regulations,

we can perform a reliable labeling which can
decrease the
ethical, cultural

& religious concerns by giving
complete

information about the GM
food, so

giving the choice to
consume

or not to consume the GM food.

T
raditional farmers
shoul
d be educated to understand this

critical situation
(
over population & the need for more
food)
& the

emergency
need for

a new technique
to
provide
food

security.

The public need to be suffi
ci
ently educated on genetic engineerin
g of any product to enhance
a
cceptability of such a
food, this

is because biotechnology is a new technology & unfamiliar to
many people.

Therefore,

we can simply solve the
challenges

by spending more time & effort &
educating the
public.


C
ONCLUSION

Genetic engineering

& biotechnology

are
the only logical way
of feeding & medicating an over

populated world

which is estimated to double by 2050, according to the UN

.GM has the
potential to enhance the quality ,nutritional value & variety of food available for human
consumption ,& to in
crease the efficiency of food production ,food
distribution

,& waste
management .

It would lead to development of new crop varieties tha
t offer increased yields & reduc
ed inputs
.Genes inserted into plants can give biological
defenses

against
diseases

& pe
sts
thus

reduc
ing
the need for
expensive ch
e
mical pesticides & convey genetic tra
i
ts that
enable crops to better
withstand
drought, pH, frost

& salt
condition.


Use of herbicide resistance seeds will enable farmers to selectively eradicate weeds with
herb
icide, without

damaging farm
crops.

Adequate
regulation, constant

monitoring, &

research are essential to avoid possible harmful
effects from GM food technology

& to give assurance to whom concern about this
technology.
GM foods are safe .
Careful applicati
on of biotechnology & genetic engineering will make life
better, improve

human health & welfare &
save time & money .GM will also create jobs & yi
eld
sizeable foreign exchange .
O
verall, the

benefits of g
enetically engineered foods far out weigh the
consequ
ences
.

Risk of producing & consuming new GM foods should be weighed against
potential
benefits, &

when benefits outweigh the
risks, such

foods should be adopted & to reduce
the public concerns
,

labeling should be performed with more
accuracy
.

Finally we ca
n say that biotechnology is a

reliable

way towards food
security, if

we really intend
to.


REFERENCES:

1)

Alliance for better foods .Improving Agriculture through Biotechnology: Health
and Nutritional Benefits of Food Biotechnology .1999 www. betterfoods. org
.


2)

De La Fuente ,J .M .,Ramirez
-
Rodriguez ,V., Cabera

Ponce
,J.L.,Herrera
-
Estrella ,L.,1997. Aluminum tolerance in transgenic plants
by alteration of citrate synthesis. Science 276: 1566
-
1568.


3)

Engel, K.H. Frenzel,Th. Miller,A. 2002. Current and future be
nefits from
the use of GM technology in food production .Toxicology letters 127:
329
-
336.


4)

Hauman BF.Bio
-
engineered oilseed acreage escalating .Inform 1997 8:804
-
11.

5)

Petersen,S.B.,Svenson,B.,Pedersen,S.(Eds), 1995.
Carbohydrate Bioengineering.
Elsevier, Am
esterdam , The Netherlands .


6)

Hileman B. Bt corn pollen kills monarch butterflies. Chemical and Eng News ,
May 24, 1999, p .7 .


7)

Jackson W. 1991. Development of perennial grains. Paper presented at the 18

th
International conference on the Unity of the
Sciences. Aug 23
-
26, Seoul Korea.


8)

Liu K. 1999. Biotech crops: products, properties and prospects. Food
Technology; 53(5): 42
-
49
.


9)

Liu KS, Brown EA. 1996 Enhancing vegetable oil quality through plant
breeding and genetic engineering. Food Technol; 50(11):
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10)

Lucca, P., Wunn, J., Hurrell, R.F, Potrykus, I., 2000. Development of iron

rich
rice and improvement of its absorption in humans by genetic engineering .J.Plant
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12): 1983
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11)

Schuler, T.H.,Poppy ,G.M.,Kerry ,B.R.,Denholm ,I.,1998. I
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12)

Takahashi ,M.,Nakanishi,H.,Kawasaki,S.,Nishizawa,N.K.,Mori,S.,2001.Enhanced
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nicotianamine aminiotransferase genes .
Nat .Biotechnol.19: 466
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469 .


13)

Thayer AM. 1999. Transforming agriculture: transgenic crops and application of
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Turk ,S.C.H.J.,Smeekens ,S.C
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15)

Uzogara .Stella G. 2000 .The impact of genetic modification of human foods in
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s
t

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Wambugu, F., 1999 .Why Africans need agricultural biotech. Nature 400:15
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