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Overview of Green Biotechnology

green biotech

Green Biotechnology is the application of biotechnological techniques on plants to improve nutritional quality, making them more drought-resistant and resistant to various diseases. All Biotechnological techniques that are directly related to the plants, crops, and agriculture fields come under Green Biotechnology.

Green Biotechnology includes the development of genetically modified organisms, transgenic crops, hybrid varieties, bio-fertilizers, bio-control agents, power generation, reduction of environmental pollution, and uses of renewable energy resources. It reduces the dependency of the agriculture field on chemical technologies by using biotechnological techniques to increase productivity and reduce production costs.

Plant Biotechnology, Agriculture Biotechnology, Plant tissue culture, etc. are the major Biotechnology subjects that come under Green Biotechnology. So Green Biotechnology, Plant Biotechnology, and Agriculture Biotechnology are used synonymously in their broadest sense.

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History of Green Biotechnology

Arising of Green Biotechnology is directly related to the Green revolution. In the first green revolution from 1960 to 1975 new majorly grown crops such as wheat, rice, and maize varieties were introduced that we're able to produce doubled or tripled yields. Later in the second green revolution, the crops were tolerant to stress and resistant to pests and diseases. The third green revolution was possible due to the application of Biotechnological techniques in crops and various plants.

Genetically modified crops (GM Crops) were developed in 1983 but permission to planting on fields was permitted in 1990 for the first time in China. Later Flavr Savr GM crop of tomato got the license for human consumption by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. Then China first time commercializes the transgenic crop of tobacco in 1993 with the introduction of the virus-resistant gene. Later in 1996 Roundup Ready soybean GM crop was launched.

The golden history of Green Biotechnology begins in 1996 when the first time genetically modified crops were cultivated in the USA. Green Biotechnology has been adopted globally in 2006 and 10.3 million farmers of 22 countries cultivated the GM Crops on 102 million hectares of fields. Later 14 million farmers in 25 different countries cultivated GM crops in 2009.

Importance of Green Biotechnology

Green Biotechnology plays a very important role for farmers, consumers, and the environment. Some of the benefits of its listed below.

  • Biotech crops are increasing the yields by 6% - 30% on the same amount of land and facilities.
  • They are resistant to many diseases and insects so it reduces the use of various harmful insecticides and pesticides.
  • They produce good quality, safer, and healthier food and feedstuffs that are healthier and contain less harmful natural toxins.
  • Farmers can grow these crops more efficiently and reliably in harsher climatic conditions.
  • Increases the economic growth and quality of life for farmers and society.
  • It helps in reductions in global greenhouse gases like CO2 emissions. It helps in the bioremediation of contaminated soils.

Tools and Techniques Used in Green Biotechnology

There are lots of Biotechnology techniques used in Green Biotechnology including many old plant breeding techniques like hybridization. Some of the major techniques used in it are listed below.

1. Plant Tissue Culture

It is the main technique of plant biotechnology to multiply genetically modified plants, pathogen-free transplants, seedless varieties, and especially useful for those plants that do not respond well to vegetative propagation.

Plant tissue culture uses techniques like germplasm conservation, embryo culture, protoplast fusion, genetic transformation, somatic embryogenesis, haploid production, and organogenesis, suspension culture, callus culture, root culture, etc.

2. Micropropagation

It is a practice of rapidly multiplying a selected plant using in vitro culture techniques. It helps breeders to produce a large number of progeny plants in a limited time and space.

3. Plant Genetic Engineering

Recombinant DNA technology, mutagenesis, RNA interference, transgenic, polyploidy, somatic hybridization, and genome editing is widely used. The most common genetically engineered crops that are used commercially are cotton, maize, sweet potato, and soybeans.

4. Plant Molecular Marker

A molecular marker is a short DNA sequence that is closely linked to the particular desirable gene which helps to grow the crop with the desired trait. So these molecular markers are utilized to select a particular trait in the plant.

5. Biofertilizers & Biopesticides

Biofertilizers, Biopesticides, and Bio-control agents are the main tools of Green Biotechnology that reduce the farmer's dependencies on harmful chemicals like pesticides, insecticides, etc.

6. Plant Hybridization

Plant hybridization is a very old technique of crossbreeding among genetically dissimilar plants to produce a new hybrid plant that has both parent plants' qualities.   Hybridization is mainly employed in the breeding of domesticated plant varieties to transient hybrid vigor, move desirable variation among lineages, and developed novel phenotypes. For example, hybridized tomato plants are more long-living than normal tomato plants.

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Green Biotechnology Applications

There are many applications of Green Biotechnology, related to agriculture, environment, medical, and industries. Some of the major applications of Green Biotechnology are listed below.

1. Transgenic or Genetically Modified Crops Production

The main contribution of green biotechnology to agriculture is to create a new species by the transfer of interesting genes between different organisms to develop a plant of economic interest. More than 32 different plants GM crops have been developed now like soybean, cotton, maize, canola, alfalfa, apple, papaya, petunia, eggplant, potato, cowpea, safflower, apple, sugarcane, etc.

GM crops are widely adopted by farmers today. In this way, the products produced by these have higher resistance and are easier to treat even in case of infection, so the loss of crops is greatly reduced.

2. Bioenergy and Biofuel for Power Generation

The application of Green Biotechnology for the production of biofuel products like bio-ethanol, bio-methanol, biogas, and biodiesel. New GM crops have been developed to increase the production of ethanol. For example, improved sugarcane variety has been developed that has high productivity, drought tolerance, high content of cellular fibers, high sucrose content, and walls that are easily broken.

3. Production of Biopolymers

The natural biopolymers sources of plant origins are algae, seeds, and trees or their exudates. Plant breeding for the production of biopolymers is the major application of green biotechnology in biopolymers production like Polylactide, Xanthan gum, Polyhydroxyalkanoate, and Starch polymers. 

4. Phytoremediation (Bioremediation)

Phytoremediation is the clean-up of metal- and metalloid contaminants from the soil or sediments. GM or Transgenic plants now show very good results in this approach to promote phytoextraction of metals like Cd, Pb, Cu, As, and Se from the soil. Overexpressing genes encoding enzymes that are involved in the production of gas methyl-selenide species promote the Phytovolatization of selenium compounds.

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Disadvances of Green Biotechnology

There are some disadvantages of Green Biotechnology that also can cause harmful effects on us and our environments.

1. Health Risks

In humans, health risks are mainly allergic reactions. GM foods have specific proteins that can act as toxins. They can change the metabolic pathway and stimulates an immune response. For example, GM crop (StarLink maize) of maize that has a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis led to increased expression of the protein CRY9C, which has allergenic properties.

Genetic modification in crops leads to crop resistance to disease or makes it more tolerant to herbicides, which could affect the ability of humans to defend against illness.

2. Environmental Risks

GM crops cause the losses of terrestrial biodiversity and resistance to insecticides. Transgenetic plants are grown in controlled environments they can be spread uncontrollably in the environment and disturbed the biological equilibrium of the environment. Many GM crops are dangerous to insects but insects like butterflies, and bees are not actually dangerous to crops. There are chances to the mixing of GM plants with conventional crops also.

3. Safety and Regulations

Transgenic crops and foods are widely researched and reviewed by various government agencies. Every country has different agencies for it. Each agency has different criteria for the review process. In the US, the USFDA is the main authority to declare that product is safe to eat. The production of GM crops and animals has social and ethical issues also.

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Future of Green Biotechnology

Global environmental challenges and providing nourishment to all, force scientists to new technologies to develop new plant varieties for tomorrow. Green Biotechnology is not limited to only GM Crops only it has various fields of research where lots of research work going on continuously and many of them already reached fields and also available for use of humans use. The major research area under Green Biotechnology is listed below.

  • New GM Crops development
  • Breeding Techniques
  • Plants Gene Expression Analyses
  • Biofortification
  • Secondary Metabolites Production
  • Plant and Microbe Interactions
  • Multi-Omics Approaches
  • Genotyping by Sequencing in Plants
  • Genetic Resources Preservation
  • Nanotechnology in Agriculture
  • Phytoremediation

You Should Solve: MCQs on Plant Biotechnology

Popular Books on Green Biotechnology

We listed some of the popular books on Green Biotechnology that students can study for getting good marks in the exam.

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