Plant Biotechnology What IS plant biotechnology and why is it useful to me?? I’m glad you asked! 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 Timeline 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 Agricultural benefits Vaccines Pytoremediation 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 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? Improves yields Cuts costs Reduces spraying Improves farmers’ quality of life Stats 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 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? 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 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… 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 No more shots! 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 Unicef estimates that 30 million infants go without basic immunizations every year 3 million of those die from preventable disease Arntzen: 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 Potatoes carrying insulin: Loma Linda Corn that staves off intestinal pathogens: Corn geared toward cystic fybrosis: University in California Iowa State Meristem Therapeutics in France Early stage clinical trials with herpes monoclonal antibody growth in corn: Epicyte Pharmaceuticals in San Diego Benefits 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 Worries? “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 phytoremedi- what?! 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 Phytoremediation 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 A tree 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 How phytoextraction works 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? 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: asbestos pesticides 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 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 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 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 Cost 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? Time 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 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 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 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 technology.” 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 What about the millions of malnourished people whose lives could be saved by transgenic foods?