Scientists See New Promise in Genetic Tinkering of Plants By Josh Green

After several years of work, scientists are using genetic engineering techniques to alter the photosynthesis process. They increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to make gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches. The scientists have no interest in increasing the production of tobacco; their plan is to try the same alterations in food crops, and one of the leaders of the work believes production gains of 50 percent or more may ultimately be achievable. Some doctors are convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to a “second Green Revolution” that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.

Many scientists believe that photosynthesis isn't very efficient and are trying to change that. When plants receive direct sunlight, they are often getting more energy than they can use, and they activate a mechanism that helps them shed it as heat — while slowing carbohydrate production. The genetic changes the researchers introduced help the plant turn that mechanism off faster once the excessive sunlight ends, so that the machinery of photosynthesis can get back more quickly to maximal production of carbohydrates.

Analysis of Article: Although many people have some moral or political issues with this, I think it is a very important discovery that should be investigated more. In a time where climate change is real and the earth is changing in ways that effect out agricultural output, it is as important as ever to find better ways to produce food. Whether it increases crop yields or allows us to make food in a lab, genetically engineering plants to increase output can have large impacts. Some people have moral issues with it and say its "not God's way," I think for something that can make a global impact should be accepted by everyone.

My Big "Takeaway": In my opinion, any sort of research that can help people around the world should be embraced and emphasized more. Many companies like the Gates Foundation are pushing to see improvements in this field, it should be a global effort and can affect everyone. With climate change, famine, and hunger, there is as much of a need as ever to make improvements. In places like Africa, where millions of people do not get enough food, being able to double or triple output would feed so many people. Although I do not totally understand the science behind genetically engineering plants compared to cross breeding and other conventional breeding methods, I do understand the impact it could have if improvements are made in this field in both a short and long term way.

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Created with images by Pexels - "agriculture beautiful clouds" • Richard Walker Photography - "Spring Tree" • Parker Knight - "Crops"

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