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Time will tell how wise we are in our management of insect-resistant crops, and how effective they continue to be.
The fast-growing salmon can reach market size in 18 months, roughly half the time its non-genetically modified counterpart, and requires less feed.
This could bring both business and environmental benefits, and the approval may pave the way for other GM animals.
For the benefits of genome-edited crops to be realized whilst the risks are controlled, we can only hope that the EU announces regulations that are acceptable to both scientists and society.
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to expand from today’s 7 billion to way beyond 9 billion.
Disease-resistant banana, wheat and potatoes are all in the pipeline, along with drought-tolerant sugarcane and maize.
Rather than focusing on the high-yielding crops that dominate agriculture in the developed world, many publically funded research programs aim to reduce the crop loss faced by farmers who lack the resources to deal with disease and climate variation.It also cuts costs for consumers and raises livelihoods for farmers in developed countries. Their seeds travel well beyond fields where they are grown.Cross-pollination creates herbicide-resistant “super weeds” that threaten other crops and wild plants.These powerful tools can be used to introduce new genes into a plant or animal, or to make more subtle changes to individual DNA base pairs.They are often much faster and cheaper than older techniques of genetic modification, potentially allowing smaller players onto the field.But this resistance race won’t simply be won with technology.Better management has the power to reduce the resistance problem—planting areas of non-GM crop next to the insect-resistant crop, for example.The many research programs developing genetically modified plants and animals have seldom made it to fruition, and the market is dominated by a few types of modification in a small number of crops.In 2016, 185 million hectares of land were planted with biotech crops, and the vast majority consisted of soybean, maize, cotton and canola.In the laboratory, genome editing has been used to create disease-resistant rice and wheat, and enhance drought tolerance in maize.The lower cost means projects on smaller-scale crops become viable, and scientists are working to develop disease-resistant citrus trees and wine grapes.