Biotechnology provides farmers with tools that can make production cheaper and manage. For example, some biotech crops can be designed to tolerate specific herbicides, which simplifies and makes weed control more efficient. As biotechnology expands, it will be essential to understand why different species have different capacities to regenerate from cell cultures in plants and how factors such as the genetic or physiological origin of cells and culture conditions affect growth. Research efforts that could lead to potentially valuable applications of biotechnology in livestock farming involve the low-cost production of large quantities of animal growth hormones.
When such releases have been approved, monitoring the behavior of GMOs after their release is a rich field for future research in crop ecology. Crops with better production characteristics could provide nutritional benefits to millions of people suffering from malnutrition and deficiency disorders. The current debate on labeling includes the questions of whether product labeling should be mandatory or voluntary, what information should be included on the label to inform consumers about their choice, and whether it is feasible to label products in bulk that may contain a mix of transgenic and non-transgenic crops. The tools of biotechnology, combined with the traditional techniques of biology and chemistry, greatly increase both the power and pace of discovery in biological research.
When making value judgments about the risks and benefits of using biotechnology, it is important to distinguish between risks inherent to technology and risks that transcend technology. Until now, the main research and development efforts of the private sector in biotechnology have focused on opportunities to introduce features useful to producers in the markets of industrial countries, because this is where bioscience companies can recover their investments. This significantly expands the range of useful characteristics that can ultimately be applied to the development of new crop varieties. Other transgenic plants are developed to tolerate certain herbicides, allowing farmers a wide variety of options for controlling weeds.
The approval process for GM crops varies from country to country, but all regulations are based on the same objective that GMOs must be safe for human and animal health and the environment. In laboratory tests, the ice-free strain has been sprayed on plants to displace the wild strain and, therefore, provide the crop with some protection against frost. These sections review traditional approaches, analyze examples of progress in the use of biotechnology, and highlight the opportunities that lie ahead. However, with the advent of biotechnology, sustainable plant growth can be achieved quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps the most direct way to use biotechnology to improve agriculture is to genetically modify plants, that is, to alter their basic genetic structure so that they have new characteristics that improve the efficiency of agricultural production.