In simple terms, food biotechnology is genetic engineering in agriculture. It operates at the genetic level of the food system, at the most fundamental level of characterization. Genes are fundamental for quality and production commands. This new genetic technology requires trained individuals who understand and are able to utilize the genes. For more information, read our article on the basics of food biotechnology. Here, we’ll discuss a few of the key aspects.
Food and agriculture are closely related. Food biotechnology, also known as agricultural biotechnology, is the process of transforming plants, animals, and microorganisms by using their own genetic information. With the help of these technologies, food and agriculture are more nutritious, last longer, and have lower natural toxicant levels. These innovations also have other advantages, including reducing the saturated fat content of cooking oils and boosting the level of disease-fighting nutrients in foods.
Among the ethical issues associated with agricultural biotechnology are the economic costs of the process, the environmental impact of products, and the depletion of rural communities. While many university scientists portray themselves as honest researchers, they often balk at ethical considerations when dealing with controversial topics. Furthermore, universities cannot conduct scientific research without significant funding, which is also the source of their salaries. Yet, the positive effects of agricultural biotechnology can offset the negative consequences, such as lower food prices. This concern is particularly relevant in developing regions, where a number of problems are associated with the use of food and agricultural biotechnology.
There is a debate on whether food and agricultural biotechnology should be allowed. The majority of critics argue that food and agricultural biotechnology should not be used in a way that violates religious beliefs. Nevertheless, there is a difference between regulating food biotechnology and appeasing the religious community. While regulating food biotechnology is not a good idea, it should not be banned. People should be free to express their opinions and views, as long as they do it in a respectful and reasonable manner.
Recombinant DNA technology
Recombinant DNA technology involves the engineering of microbial cells for the production of foreign proteins. The success of this technology depends on the exact reading of the equivalent genes from the source cell. This technology has fueled many advances in molecular biology. Cloned DNA sequence studies have revealed detailed gene structures and organizations, as well as hints about regulatory pathways. This breakthrough has made the production of recombinant proteins possible for food and agriculture.
Recombinant DNA technology has improved human health and saved the world from several threats. It has improved plant and animal genetic resources and increased their resistance to various environmental factors. The concept of oral vaccination with edible plants has gained much popularity. Various plant species have been genetically engineered to produce therapeutic protein products such as human collagen. Genetic engineering of tobacco plants can help make the plant produce human collagen. The potential uses of recombinant DNA technology are virtually endless.
In the mid-1970s, Stuart Linn and Werner Arber discovered that bacteria can be protected from viruses by using restriction enzymes. These enzymes work by cutting a single DNA sequence in the virus. In turn, this prevents the virus from replicating and infecting the bacteria. The first restriction enzyme was isolated in 1968 from the bacterium Escherichia coli K. In 1969, Hamilton O Smith isolated the first site-specific restriction enzyme, named HindII.
Plant genetic engineering
The process of creating transgenic crops involves inserting the desired gene or traits into an organism’s DNA. To create a transgenic plant, scientists isolate cells or tissues from one cultivar and insert a gene construct. The organism has a promoter, which controls expression of the transgene in plant tissues. The CaMV 35s promoter is a common type of promoter used in plant genetic engineering. Other promoters may be used as well.
The resulting GM crop is genetically modified to possess a trait of interest. This is done by inserting specific DNA into the plant’s genome. The new DNA is then transferred into plant cells or tissue culture and passed onto the plant’s seeds. This process results in a plant that is resistant to a disease or other condition. Once the plant has been modified, its seed will contain the new DNA. The GM plant’s new DNA will continue to exist for the rest of its life.
The EPA and FDA evaluate biotech-derived plants for their potential toxicity or allergic reactions. The proteins produced by the plants undergo a variety of tests, including the stability of their heat and digestion, and their similarity to known allergenic substances. The testing is completed before the product is introduced into the food supply. The food biotechnology industry is currently researching several types of crops to produce more nutritious, long-lasting foods. These foods will also have lower levels of naturally occurring toxins.
Food biotechnology produces pest-resistant crops. These crops are produced from the bacteria in the soil known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt plants produce an endotoxin that kills insect larvae. Bt crops are used to combat pests like corn rootworm and cotton bollworm. These crops have decreased the use of synthetic insecticides and the amount of money farmers spend on pesticides.
However, this technology is not without risks. The EPA recently proposed new guidelines on field trials of genetically engineered crops. Because the substances introduced into crops by genetic engineering fall under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the EPA will formally review products before they are approved for commercial use. For experiments involving more than 10 acres in the U.S., an Experimental Use Permit (EUP) will be required.
Although the technology is still a developing science, the benefits of food biotechnology are enormous. The technology helps farmers reduce their pesticide and management costs, and it also increases yields. It also reduces the risk of crop contamination and food poisoning. By controlling pests, food biotechnology also improves the safety of food and contributes to the global economy. There are now many crops that are resistant to pests.
Although food biotechnology is used to control pests, environmentalists worry that these crops will evolve and contaminate all crops. Furthermore, they may harm the environment. Many organic farmers are hesitant to cross-pollinate their crops with biotech ones, and these seeds may have harmful effects. Some environmental advocates are calling for a ban on biotech products and a moratorium on their further development. They believe that it is time for new regulations on pest-resistant crops.
Regulation of food biotechnology
The regulatory process for food biotechnology is complex, but the principles underlying it are relatively similar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates the safety and nutritional aspects of new plant varieties. Based on existing food laws, FDA sets the standards for safety and purity for genetically engineered foods and enforces standards on pesticide residue. The regulatory frameworks for both genetically engineered foods and traditional foods vary, but they all share the same goal: protecting human health and the environment.
The federal government has three major agencies that oversee agricultural modern biotechnology. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates the field testing of genetically engineered plants and certain microorganisms. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures the safety of food and drugs. Unlike the EPA, the FDA is responsible for the safety of human food and proper labeling of plant-derived products.
Developing countries are concerned about food biotechnology because it threatens their agriculture. They fear that the technology may be imported and then dumped in their countries. Additionally, governments are wary of a potential backlash if biotechnology is sold within their borders. Developing countries lack a legal framework for modern biotechnology. It may be necessary to pass new laws to regulate the industry, but existing laws may already address many issues in developing countries.
The regulatory system for food biotechnology encompasses several different aspects. The FDA and USDA regulate products that could pose a threat to human and animal health. The FDA regulates pharmaceuticals and shares its responsibility with the USDA for food safety. The EPA regulates biotechnology products that use pesticides or act as pesticides. The TSCA regulates biotechnology products in the workplace. It also oversees the use of new biotechnology microorganisms.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding food biotechnology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to develop a stronger system for risk assessment of biotechnology-derived foods. The agency has outlined several different tools it will use to address biotechnology food safety concerns. One of these tools is the premarket safety review of dietary supplements. The FDA considers dietary supplements to be “dietary supplements” under the 1994 DSHEA.
In 1991, the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology (the “Coordinated Framework”) described a comprehensive federal regulatory policy for the use of biotechnology. The objective was to ensure the safety of products, while not encumbering innovation. As a result, the U.S. government has made strides to modernize the regulatory system for food biotechnology. But it is not easy to meet the government’s regulatory goals.