3 Applications of Biotechnology for Agriculture

September 6, 2019 • Shannon Flynn

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Biotechnology, or “biotech,” combines biology and technology to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Biotech is a rather large area of biology that uses organisms to develop new products.

While there are related fields like bio-engineering or biomanufacturing, the overlap is minimal enough that each is its own discipline.

While
the term was coined in 1919, biotechnology has been around for thousands of
years in different forms. In agriculture, especially, people have used biotech
to make their crops and livestock more efficient and healthy. In the modern
era, technology has taken quite a different turn, but the song remains the
same.

We
still use technology to make our food production as bountiful as possible. Here
are a few examples of how we’ve succeeded.

1. Crops Can
Tolerate Herbicides and Pesticides

Pesticides
and herbicides are poisonous to crops. The intent behind using them is to get
rid of unwanted plants taking nutrients from the crops you want to grow, or to
deal with small bugs and animals that destroy crops. Fortunately, thanks to
biotech, we’re able to create crops that are immune to popular herbicides and
pesticides.

With
sufficient resistance to these poisons, farmers began using herbicides
and pesticides more
often. The reason for increased use was because weeds were also
becoming resistant to herbicides due to the close contact with biotech plants.
Studies in 2011 raised concerns about the heavy pesticide use, so biotech went
to work on another alternative.

2. Crops Are
Immune to Disease

You’ve
likely heard of genetically modified organisms, or “GMOs.” Though
there has been some talk about avoiding GMOs, genetically
modified foods are harmless
and have been proven harmless time and again. The point of modifying
our crops at a genetic level is to be able to produce more food with the land
we currently have. Distributed as they currently are, our resources aren’t
enough to feed the world’s population.

There
are many purposes for modifying crops, but the main one is to make them immune
to diseases that would otherwise kill plants. Crops in fields and stuck in
close quarters could have diseases spread through them quickly and ruin food
production. With genetic modification, the crops can survive, become more
plentiful and feed people without any worry of harm.

3. More
Efficient Antibiotics

A
very scary thing starting to occur across the world is the increasing number of
viruses that are immune to our antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has already killed about
700,000 people

across the globe, with the number estimated to reach 10 million in 2050. Even
farmers are finding that the antibiotics they grow with aren’t effective
against certain strains of viruses and diseases.

Biotechnology
has already begun fighting back by creating new antibiotics for people, animals
and crops. Of course, the fight is ongoing for now as viruses continue to
evolve. However, with entire companies working on this issue, we should have no
problem keeping up.

Biotech
Solutions

Biotechnology
is something that we’ve been able to grow over the last few thousand years.
Thanks to advancements in society and technology, especially over the last
century or so, we’ve been able to push further than most people have dreamed
possible. With this new technology, many are hopeful that we can make food
shortages and hunger a thing of the past. Perhaps with enough advancements in
research, they’ll be right.



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