What is Agricultural Biotechnology?
Agricultural biotechnology includes, but is not limited to:
- using our knowledge of cells to modify their activities.
- modifying cells or microorganisms using the techniques of recombinant DNA rather than traditional selective breeding.
- producing commercial quantities of desirable substances using microorganisms, cells or parts of cells.
Some examples of techniques used in agricultural biotechnology are:
- selective breeding that produces crops and livestock with specified characteristics.
- utilizing chemicals such as colchicine or radiation to induce mutations in genetic material.
- growing new plants using specific parts of another plant in a process called vegetative propagation. Grafting is one example that is important in fruit trees.
- encouraging the growth of a new plant in a prepared nutrient medium within a controlled environment.
Current examples of agricultural biotechnology products on the market are:
- corn plants having resistance to a particular herbicide used to kill weeds.
- corn plants producing a protein toxic to insect pests reducing the amount of insecticide use.
- tomatoes producing less of a hormone that causes tomatoes to ripen thereby extending the shelf life.
- corn hybrid plants growing in strongly alkaline soils that are found in the western US corn belt.
- cotton plants resisting cotton bollworms and tobacco budworms.
A large percentage of watermelons imported into the US annually come from Mexico with the remaining volume arriving from Central and South America. Imports have increased to meet the consumer demand for watermelon all-year-round.