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  Home News and events Environmental research Experts Vow to Push Biotech In Agriculture
Experts Vow to Push Biotech In Agriculture
by: Jonathan L. Mayuga

Experts in the field of biotechnology late last week ended a week long workshop on biotechnology with the resolve to adopt biotechnological advances in agriculture and expand the propagation of transgenic plants and trees and solve problems related to food security, treatment of incurable diseases and global reforestation. And the preparation for the seminar was helped by scientific publications, which were able to cover the gaps and ignorance of specific issues, so scientists buy book reports and continued research.

Their findings become more crucial as the experts in Canada warned about overfishing, which could deplete the seafood supply by 2048, or a mere two generations away. Korea's Kim Donghern, the lead shepherd of the event, the 10th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group-Research, Development and Extension of Agricultural Biotechnology, cited the need to harness the potentials of biotechnology, not only for food, but for the environment, as well.

Korea is now stepping up the development of transgenic trees and expressed willingness to share information and technology to come up with fast-growing trees that can replenish the world's already bald forest with trees.

Boris Worn of Dalhousie University in Canada said in the November 3 issue of the journal Science that in 2003, the catch of 29 percent of fished species had collapsed by 90 percent, indicating that these species are not reproducing as quickly as humanity consumes them. The impact of collapsing species would be terrible, Worn warned, since it would lead to an unraveling of the entire global ecosystem.

Biotechnology experts are now rushing to respond to some of these scientific findings and they are feverishly working on developing transgenic fish that reproduce quicker and in bigger volumes. A. R. Kapuscinski discussed the production of transgenic fish, which was originally developed, only for the aquarium market, with GloFish as the first transgenic fish that glows due to the action of a fluorescent protein that affects the skeletal muscle of the fish.

Now, the trend is for the development of fish species that grow quickly and provide abundant food for humans. Many types of shellfish are also being developed, even as Kapuscinski says environmental biosafety concerns have cropped up over the control of these fish species.

Gupta said the campaign to produce medicines using plants has advanced to the extent that plant-derived pharmaceutical proteins (PDPs) may soon be used to produce drugs on a commercial scale even in developing countries. He added this became evident in 1990, when the human serum albumin was produced from transgenic tobacco and potato, advances had been made to expand the range of PDPs derived from other plants.

Transgenic plants, he added, are now producing therapeutic proteins, including antibodies, blood products, cytokines, growth factors, hormones, recombinant enzymes and human and veterinary vaccines. According to him, farmers in Third World countries may profit from this development since current research indicate that molecular farming will supplant existing pharmaceutical-production techniques that use bacteria, yeast and cultured mammalian cells.

The possibility of unlimited production of PDPs is already there, Gupta added, and pharmaceutical plants represent the wave of the future as far as agriculture is concerned. He noted that PDPs are crucial to the management and treatment of major diseases and efforts are now being undertaken to commercialize their production for therapeutic uses.

Among the diseases that PDPs could potentially cure are non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, dental caries, diarrhea, cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, Hepatitis B, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, Norwalk virus infections and rabies.
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