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The Solutions Of Agricultural Biotechnology

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It is without a doubt that biotechnology has deep roots within agriculture that go back 1000s of years. The carrots we eat today weren’t always orange nor were they nearly as soft as we know them to be, the characteristics we recognize today were the result of selective breeding. Agricultural biotechnology put simply is the use of living organisms and biological processes as tools to solve problems in agriculture. Selective breeding is just one of these tools and in the modern era biotechnology has grown to include genetic engineering which is a highly controversial subject. There are people that may think agricultural biotechnology has gone too far with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because of decreased biodiversity, intellectual property abuse and the long term uncertainty of the impact on the environment, however, I believe it is more important that GMOs can increase productivity, help the environment and increase nutritional content.

In a world with approximately 7.7 billion people that is likely to reach 10.9 billion by the end of the century (United Nations, 2019), productivity deserves special consideration. Arable land is limited and thus being able to produce enough food to feed 3.2 billion more people comes down to being able to produce more crops per unit of land as well as expanding the types of land that can be used to grow produce. For example, with the help of biotechnology, we have increased the productivity of wheat from 0.5 to 6 metric tonnes per hectare (Cheetham, 2019). Also, it is not a surprise that in Brazil they are cutting down large parts of the Amazon rainforest for cattle production despite the costs. Making produce capable of growing in less fertile land and driving down costs is necessary to meet the needs of the society of the future.

Agriculture isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly practice, with damaging effects ranging from local ecosystems to the entire planet. Livestock currently generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation when you convert methane to its equivalent in CO2, approximately 1/10th of global emissions (FAO, 2006). To tackle this issue, scientists at Genome Canada are actively working on a project that involves selecting cows for the dairy industry with the genes required to produce less methane gas and require less feed (GenomeCanada, n.d.). When it comes to local ecosystems, pesticides and herbicides manage to contaminate ecosystems. One solution to this has been the advent of Bt Crops, these crops are genetically modified to produce the same toxin as Bacillus Thuringiensis, this toxin reduces the need for harmful pesticides that could end up as runoff or contaminate groundwater. With the help biotechnology, agriculture can be optimized to be less harmful to the environment.

There are many uses for agricultural biotechnology; with the use of genetic engineering, it is possible to increase the nutritional content of crops and livestock. This is largely important because “2 billion people—almost 25% of global population—is micronutrient deficient” (Dubock, 2019). An example of improving nutrition through genetic engineering is the golden rice which gives the crop sufficient amounts of vitamin A, by inserting the beta carotene gene to rice DNA. In communities that heavily depend on rice as part of their diet, that also lack easy access to vitamin A, golden rice can improve the lives of the entire community. The benefits of agricultural biotechnology extend beyond just making vitamin A accessible and is a strong tool for improving the health of society.

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There is a fear that biotechnology in agriculture decreases biodiversity. 1 famous example happens to be the banana, the bananas currently used for human consumption is the cavendish, each cavendish is genetically identical. The cavendish was supposed to be resistant to the Panama disease that wiped out the Gros Michel, that was until the fungi adapted and with no genetic diversity, every single cavendish plant is vulnerable to the disease. While the fear is valid it is not the end for the cavendish, Scientists are working to genetically alter the cavendish to be more resistant and in the worst-case scenario, there are still different varieties of bananas that can be grown to replace the cavendish. A decrease in biodiversity may be risky but doesn’t leave you without backup plans.

Another fear is that corporations creating, and patenting new breeds of crops based on their genes will be harmful to the economy. The benefits of GMO crops and livestock can make non-GMO crops and livestock unprofitable giving the corporations the ability to abuse intellectual property laws to gain monopoly or oligopoly power enabling them to exhibit rent-seeking behaviour to steal from the economy. Behind 53% of the global seed market is just 3 companies Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta (ETC Group, 2013). This allows these companies to set absurdly high prices for their seed and sue farmers using the seeds grown from these crops without paying royalties or even sue if their crops were cross-pollinated by neighbouring farm’s crops. The power companies can gain without proper regulation through GMO crops can hurt society as a whole.

The last point to be made is that the long-term effects of much agricultural biotechnology are relatively unknown. In any given ecosystem there are many moving parts. Within an organism itself many traits they express depend on a myriad of genes, and with countless genes in an organism, it would be easy to miss an unintended side effect. But beyond that, interactions with the ecosystem becomes much more complex. After the introduction of Roundup (glyphosate) resistant crops “The use of insecticides (which kill bugs) has declined since these crops were introduced in the mid-1990s, but the use of herbicides (which kill weeds) has soared.” (Consumer Reports, 2015). If it is so easy to not determine that weeds would become resistant to the glyphosate then perhaps there are other negative effects out there waiting to be uncovered.

If we wish to solve the problems of the future, we should embrace agricultural biotechnology. The world of tomorrow has high demands; with an increasing population, we need to increase productivity to keep up, damage to the environment including climate change must be tackled, issues with malnutrition around the world need solutions; agricultural biotechnology holds many of the solutions. Even though agricultural biotechnology can; decrease biodiversity, is susceptible to intellectual property issues, and have sometimes unpredictable long-term effects; these issues and the risks they bring can be mitigated with careful research, planning and regulation. Agricultural biotechnology has contributed greatly to societal progress so far and can continue to push the envelope with the help of genetic engineering if we let it.


  1. Cheetham, J. (2019). Agricultural biotechnology. [PowerPoint] Retrieved from
  2. Consumer Reports. (2015, February 26). GMO foods: What you need to know – Consumer Reports. Retrieved from Consumer Reports:
  3. Dubock, A. (2019). Golden Rice: To Combat Vitamin A Deficiency for Public Health. 10.5772/intechopen.84445.
  4. ETC Group. (2013, September). Putting the Cartel before the Horse …and Farm, Seeds, Soil, Peasants, etc. Retrieved from ETC Group:
  5. FAO. (2006, November 29). Livestock a Major Threat to the Environment. Retrieved from FAO Site:
  6. GenomeCanada. (n.d.). Increasing feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions through genomics. Retrieved from GenomeCanada:
  7. United Nations. (2019). World Population Prospects – Population division – United Nations. Retrieved from United Nations:

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The Solutions Of Agricultural Biotechnology. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“The Solutions Of Agricultural Biotechnology.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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