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Plant Biotechnology. What IS plant biotechnology and why is it useful to me??. I’m glad you asked!. Let’s define:. Plant biotechnology:

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Plant Biotechnology

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let s define
Let’s define:

Plant biotechnology:

a rapidly expanding field within biotechnology that chiefly involves the introduction of foreign genes into economically important plant species, resulting in crop improvement and the production of novel products in plants


The genetic manipulation of plants has been going on since prehistoric times when early farmers began carefully selecting and maintaining seed from their best crop to plant for next season.

Now genes from sexually incompatible plants, animals, bacteria and insects can be introduced into plants

recent developments
Recent developments
  • Agricultural benefits
  • Vaccines
  • Pytoremediation
agricultural benefits of biotechnology
Agricultural Benefits of Biotechnology

“Biotechnology is the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of agriculture.”

-Bruce Chassy

Professor of Microbiology

University of Illinois

growth of biotechnology
Growth of Biotechnology

In 2002…

  • 75% of US soybean acres were planted with biotech soybeans
  • 71% of US cotton acreage were insect and herbicide resistant biotech cotton varieties
  • 34% of all corn acres were biotech corn

In 2001, biotech crop planting was up 20%, with greatest percentage growth in developing countries

why biotech
Why biotech?
  • Improves yields
  • Cuts costs
  • Reduces spraying
  • Improves farmers’ quality of life

US biotech crops planted in US produced additional 4 billion pounds of food and fiber on same acreage

  • Improved farm income by $1.5 billion
  • Reduced pesticide use by 46 million lbs.
biotech in third world
Biotech in Third World
  • UN estimates nearly 800 million people around the world are undernourished
  • About 400 million women of child-bearing age are iron deficient, exposing their babies to various birth defects
  • Over 100 million children suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, the leading cause of blindness
  • Tens of millions of people around the world suffer from other major ailments or nutritional deficiencies caused by lack of food
how does biotech help
How does biotech help?
  • Improves farming productivity in places where there are food shortages
  • Genetically modified food such as ‘golden rice’ and ‘protato’ that have increased levels of nutrients
biotech and the environment
Biotech and the environment
  • Thanks to biotechnology, corn is the first renewable raw material that can replace petrochemicals in fibers and plastics
  • Corn resin could be used to make fibers, plastic containers, and other products
  • Since corn resin is biodegradable, can dramatically reduce pollution and world’s reliance on crude oil to make polyesters, plastics, and other products
  • Also, an increase in environmentally friendly conservation tillage practices is made possible through the adoption of biotech crops
as a result
As a result…
  • Nearly 1 billion tons of soil saved per year
  • Lowered maintenance costs for activities such as dredging rivers and treating drinking water, saving $3.5 billion in sedimentation costs in 2002
  • Reduced levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide
  • 306 million gallons of fuel saved in 2002 by reducing number of tractor passes needed to control weeds
charles arntzen

Former Dean of the School of Agriculture @ Texas A&M University

Presently professor of plant biology @ Arizona State

And founder and director of the Arizona Biodesign Institute in Tempe

the problem @ hand
The problem @ hand
  • Unicef estimates that 30 million infants go without basic immunizations every year
  • 3 million of those die from preventable disease
  • has been successful in producing GM bananas that produce a protein found on the outer surface of the Hepatitis B virus
  • concluded 3 early-stage clinical trials using potatoes bearing vaccines against hepatitis B, E. coli and the Norwalk virus
  • goal is dry powder or baby food puree form of vaccine
other innovations in the works
Other innovations in the works
  • Potatoes carrying insulin: Loma Linda University in California
  • Corn that staves off intestinal pathogens: Iowa State
  • Corn geared toward cystic fybrosis: Meristem Therapeutics in France
  • Early stage clinical trials with herpes monoclonal antibody growth in corn: Epicyte Pharmaceuticals in San Diego
  • Small crops, big results: Arntzen estimates he could vaccinate all of China against Hepatitis B using 125 acres
  • No need for sterile injections or refrigerated vaccines
  • No need to worry about acquiring the disease from the vaccine: genetically engineered vaccines cannot cause the disease because the engineered bacteria cell or plant is just creating a protein that exists on the surface of a virus- not the whole virus

“I don’t see that every village in Africa or Latin America is going to have a pharmaceutical banana tree.”

-Charles Arntzen

  • Treated like any other pharmaceutical or herbal medicine
  • Strict regulations preventing cross-pollination
let s define24
Let’s define
  • Phytoremediation – the use of plants to remove pollutants from the environment and render them harmless
  • Phytoextraction – the actual removing of the pollutants
  • Work on this began in the 1980s
  • Scientists noticed that some plants could take in toxic metals that would kill other plants
  • Scientist theorized that these plants could be used to clean contaminated land cheaply and more naturally
the basics
The Basics
  • Giant webs of roots act as a solar powered pump to withdraw, concentrate and transport essential elements and compounds from the soil and water
  • This also absorbs the contaminates
  • The pollutants are drawn up into the harvestable part of the plant
  • The plant is then harvested and disposed of
  • The land or aquifer will eventually become decontaminated
what can be taken in by the roots
What can be taken in by the roots?
  • Heavy metal concentrations of lead, uranium, and cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Petroleum products
  • It can even be used to clean the urban city air
roots can clean the air you say
Roots can clean the air you say?
  • House plants foliage is capable of removing low levels of pollution
  • Plant roots, assisted by a carbon filter, are able to remove much higher concentration of pollution
they can remove


carbon dioxide

carbon monoxide

other gases

chemicals from detergents, solvents, and cleaning fluids

fibers released from clothing, furnishings, draperies, glass, carpets, and insulation

fungi and bacteria

tobacco smoke

They can remove:
more benefits
More benefits
  • Plants in urban areas absorb the extra carbon and use it for photosynthesis
  • Leaves also collect dust until it is washed off by rain, by adding more foliage dust can be reduced by 75%
  • During photosynthesis, tree foliage also removes from the atmosphere other chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides, airborne ammonia, some sulfur dioxide, and ozone, that are part of the smog and greenhouse effect problems
working phytoremediation
Working Phytoremediation
  • At UGA Om Dhankher has successfully engineered tobacco and other hearty plants to not only absorb arsenic but also to combine it with other proteins that would render it non-toxic
  • He hopes that future generations of these plants will be able to absorb 50 times the heavy metals they do today
  • Indian Mustard (Brassica Juncea L.) has already successfully removed lead from contaminated soil
  • It has even removed uranium
problems with acceptance
Problems with acceptance
  • EPA has not fully accepted this as a way of cleaning up after ourselves
  • Phytoremediation has yet to gain a proven track record with clean ups, but is still being perfected
  • There is also an economic side to acceptance
  • Landowners contract clean-up through large companies
  • These companies receive a percentage of the cost of clean up which would be in the 10’s of millions of dollars
  • Why would they want to endorse a much cheaper way of doing things?
  • Phytoremediation also takes much longer
  • It can take up to 100 years to clean a site
  • For this reason it is better to use on a small lot of land that is not heavily contaminated until the technology can be perfected
biotech scare stories
Biotech scare stories

Maybe you’ve heard in the news about biotech corn that:

  • threatened monarch butterflies
  • snuck its way into the food supply and tainted tacos
  • overtook native maize crops in Mexico

Not true.

You never hear the rest of the story.

You don’t hear about the scientist’s findings that conclude these rumors to be shady

“An extensive review of 250 scientific publications which address issues of the impacts of GM crops has concluded that many of the concerns which are featured prominently in media coverage do not stand up to careful scrutiny.”

-Life Sciences Network

(the review appeared in the January edition of

The Plant Journal)

europe vs genetically modified foods
Europe vs. Genetically Modified Foods
  • Frankenfoods
  • 1998 ban of GMs
  • Lack of confidence in their regulatory system after the Mad Cow Disease fiasco
  • Euro-Toques: main objective is to protect the fine quality and flavor of food
  • Labeling
why 3 rd world countries need europe to cooperate
Why 3rd World countries need Europe to cooperate

“Europe seems to be inward looking when producing biotech legislation. But any rules set in Brussels will affect the small scale farmer in Africa or India.”

Simon Barber

Director of the Plant Biotech Unit at EuropaBio

“We are here to tell our part of the story. In Europe

biotechnology seems to be more about ideology

than about rational choice. For us biotech is an

important tool to fight hunger and malnutrition. We

do not want to be a pawn in the transatlantic trade

squabble. We have our own voice and want to

make our own decisions on how to use this new


Professor James Ochanda

Coordinator Biotechnology Laboratory

University of Nairobi, Kenya

Brussels, January 29, 2003

The governments of several countries in

Southern Africa have declared national disasters due to the food security crisis