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Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Biotechnology and Food Resources

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University of Toronto St. George
Sarah Wakefield

CHAPTER 5: BIOTECHNOLOGY AND FOOD RESOURCES  Corn is a staple grain in the world’s food supply and comes in many varieties due to selective breeding  Corn is one of the many crops that have been Genetically modified to express traits such as  Large size  Fast growth  Resistance to insects and pests  In Mexico, scientist discovered that the maize in Mexico contained DNA of transgenes (GM crops) although Mexico has banned the cultivation of GM crops since 1998. Main cause was due to pollen from GM maize in the US blown south to Mexico.  In Canada a case of genetic diversity contamination occurred between Monsanto and Percy Schmeiser  Schmeiser grew canola which were non GM crops  Pollen from Monsanto GM crops contaminated Schmeiser’s canola crops  In 2002, Canada became the first nation to prohibit the patent holding of higher organisms 5.1. THE RACE TO FEED THE WORLD  Human population is increasing and is projected to increase by 9 billion people by 2050. Even though the growth has slowed  To feed the growing population, the integrity of the agricultural system will need to employ sustainable practices  Approaches could include organic farming to GM farming. 5.1.1. WE ARE PRODUCING MORE FOOD PER PERSON  The ability to grow food has grown faster than the human population  Due to political obstacles and inefficient distribution, 850 million people have nothing to eat  Every 5 seconds a child dies from hunger  Agricultural scientists and policy makers pursue a goal of food security  Guarantee of adequate, reliable, and available food at any time  Making a food supply sustainable requires maintaining healthy soils, water, and biodiversity  Hunger has decreased from past figures, and is due to an increase ability to produce food.  More energy is used to produce food (fossil fuels/mechanization)  Planting and harvesting more frequently  Great use of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides  Increase in cultivated land  GM productive crops and livestock  Although food production has outpaced the growth of the human population, the world’s soil is in decline and nearly all arable land has been claimed 5.1.2. UNDERNOURISHMENT, OVERNUTRITION, AND MALNUTRITION  People who suffer from undernourishment live in the developing world  In the developed world, people suffer from over-nutrition (too many calories/day)  Undernourishment is due to economic reasons  1/5 of the world population live on $1/day  More than half live on $2/day  Hunger problem is an issue in Canada where more than 750,000 people use the service of a food bank/month  More than 41% of children use the food bank  Food security is the function of five A’s  Availability  Affordability  Accessibility  Acceptability  Adequacy  Malnutrition is the shortage of nutrients the body needs  Malnourishment can cause disease  High starch diets do not have enough proteins or amino-acids 5.1.3. GREEN REVOLUTION = INCREASE IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION  Desire for greater quantity and quality of food led to the green revolution  New methods were developed by agricultural scientists to increase crop yield per unit area  The transfer of the developing world lead to an increase in crop yield, drought resistant crops and disease resistance. 5.1.4. GREEN REVOLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS/HARM  Industrial agriculture promoted the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides and irrigation of crops with generous amounts of water  The increased use of fossil fuels was used to power machinery (pollution)  From 1900-2000, the total cultivated area increased by 33%, but the energy inputs increase by 800%  Intensive agriculture in India saved millions of people from hunger and provides a source of income through exportation  The green revolution prevented deforestation and habitat conversion in many countries which is beneficial to biodiversity and the natural ecosystem  The intensive use of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides have a negative impact on the environment and has cause areas to experience  Pollution, salinization, and desertification  The development lead to an agricultural practice called monoculture agriculture  Single crop types are grown in fields  Planting and harvest is more efficient, which has increased output  Monocultures have reduced biodiversity, because fewer organisms live in monocultures  All plants are genetically similar and hence are susceptible to disease (rapid spread of disease)  Monocultures have narrowed the human diet (we consume 15 cop species and 8 livestock species) 5.1.5. BIOFUELS HAVE A LARGE IMAPCT ON FOOD AVAILABILITY  The green revolution brought about large outputs which are now being used to create biofuels  One particular biofuel is corn based ethanol which is mixed with gasoline  UN FAO has deemed the production of biofuels controversial and a “conflict of interest”, as growing demand for corn is leading to higher prices and scarcity 5.2 PESTS & POLLINATORS  Insects, fungi, rodents and weeds eat or compete with crops and have taken advantage of the ways crops are planted in clusters  These organisms decrease crop yield and make it harder for farmers to make a living  A pest is an organism that damages crops that are valuable to us  A weed is any plant that competes with our crops  There is nothing wrong about weeds and pests as they are organism who are trying to survive and reproduce 5.2.1. PESTICIDES  To prevent outbreaks and limit competition with weeds, human have developed various pesticides  Insecticides (kill insects)  Herbicides (kill plants)  Fungicides (kill fungus)  In Canada more than 7000 pesticides are used  500 of the active ingredients have not been tested for health and environmental impacts  150 of them were approved prior to 1960  New scheme, New Pest Control Act requires pesticides to be re-evaluated after 15 years of use  More than $32 billion is invested in the use of pesticides annually  $1.5 billion in Canada 5.2.2. PESTS EVOLVE RESISTANCE TO PESTICIDES  Despite the toxicity of the chemical, pests have adapted and developed resistance to them  Even if 99.99% are killed there may be thousands of other which have developed resistance to pesticides and will mate and multiply once again.  More than 2700 known cases of resistance are found in 550 species to more than 300 pesticides  Some pests have evolved resistance to multiple pesticides  In Canada a great concern is the resistance of herbicides by weeds which is increasing the land covered by them 5.2.3. BIOLOGICAL CONTROL PITS ONE ORGANISM TO ANOTHER  Because of pesticides and toxicity, scientist have employed a new technique called biological control or biocontrol which employs organisms that infect or eat weeds or pests  An example is the use of the parasitoid wasp which are natural enemies with caterpillars. The wasp lays eggs in the caterpillar and they hatch and feed on the caterpillar.  Biocontrol has enabled farmers to use less pesticides  A widespread biocontrol technique is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a natural occurring soil bacteria that kills caterpillar, flies, and beetles 5.2.4 BIOLOGICAL CONTROL MAY BECOME PESTS  Biocontrol involves introducing animals or a microbe into a foreign ecosystem  Biocontrol agents may become invasive and may affect non-target organisms  Harm done by invasive biocontrol agents may be permanent and removal of them becomes difficult 5.2.5. INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT  Integrated pest management employs both biocontrol and pesticide use  Integrated pest management uses numerous techniques  Biocontrol  Chemicals  Close monitoring of population  Habitat alteration  Crop rotation  Transgenic corps (GM)  Alternative tillage methods  Mechanical pest removal 5.2.6 WE DEPEND ON INSECTS TO POLLINATE CROPS  Managing insect pests is a major issue in agriculture and may people come to the assumption that all insects are pests  Most insects are harmless and are essential to agriculture  Insects that pollinate are vital and least understood  Pollination is the process by which the male cells of a plant (pollen) fertilize female sex cells of another plant  Without pollination, no plant can reproduce or exist  The ways pollination happens is through  Wind blowing pollen  Animals such as hummingbirds, insects, and bats  Pollinators have great economic and ecological value and the estimated value of pollination service in Canada each year is $1.2 billion  Animals pollinate 3/4of the world’s staple crops, 80% of flowering plants, and 90% globally.  Many pollinators are at risk due environmental change, habitat loss, use of pesticides, and land degradation 5.2.7 CONSERVING POLLINATORS IS VITAL  Preserving the biodiversity of pollinators is important as the major workforce which are bees, is being devastated by a parasite  Decimating bee hives have put farmers into financial ruin  Farmers and homeowners can maintain populations of pollinating insects by reducing pesticide use  Some insecticides are designed to target certain types of insects, but most are not 5.3 GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD  The green revolution enabled production to meet demands to feed a greater population which is still growing  In the 1980’s and 1990’s the advantages in genetics enabled scientists to directly alter the genes of organisms, including plants and livestock  The genetic modifications provides us with food that has enhanced nutrition and efficiency in agriculture, whilst lessening the environmental impacts.  Genetic modifications pose as a risk as they are not well understood which has given rise to protesters by consumers, farmers, environmental activist and opponents of big businesses 5.3.1. GENETIC MODIFICATIONS OF ORGANISMS DEPENDS ON RECOMBINANT DNA  The genetic modification of crop and livestock is one type of genetic engineering where scientists modify the genetic material in a lab  To genetically modify an organism, scientists combine, delete or change segment of its DNA to create a genetically modified organism (GM)  The technique is called recombinant DNA technology which is the combining of one DNA with another  Desired traits such as rapid growth, disease resistance, and higher nutrient is due to the change in genetic makeup (genomes) of the organisms lacking those traits  An organism that contains DNA from another species is called a transgenic organism and the genes that have moved between them are called transgenes  The creation of transgenic organisms is a form of biotechnology
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