GMO Need To Know: What is agricultural biotechnology?

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Before you can discuss the good, bad, and unknowns of genetically modified organisms, it’s important to have a grasp of basic concepts that you’ll run into often. During the next few months, we’ll break down the key terms in a user-friendly way. Today’s topic: agricultural biotechnology.

Definition

Agricultural biotechnology is a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques, that alter living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products; improve plants or animals; or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. Modern biotechnology today includes the tools of genetic engineering. (SOURCE: USDA)

Example

A well known use of agricultural biotechnology is the development of papaya resistant to ringspot virus. During the 1990s and early 200s, Hawaii’s papaya industry was decimated by ringspot infections. Production fell over 50% and battering the island state’s farmers. Dennis Gonsalves, an agricultural biotechnologist at Cornell University, developed a genetically modified papaya that could withstand the viral onslaught. Once adopted, the new papaya saved the Hawaii’s agricultural sector from further losses.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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