Genetic Engineering of Plants



Genetic engineering can be used to introduce specific traits into plants .It will not replace conventional breeding but can add to the efficiency of crop improvement. It is possible due to the fact that plants are totipotent enabling regeneration of a new plant from an isolated cell. Developing plant varieties expressing good agronomic characteristics is the ultimate goal of plant breeders.
Genetic engineering of plants is much easier than that of animals. Genetically modified crops (GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques, which are then used in agriculture.
Why Transgenic plants?
It is only through the recombinant approach of (genetic engineering) biotechnology, new genes with desired characters (that may or may not be present in other plants) can be introduced into the plants. Further, it is possible to manipulate the existing genes to make the proteins with suitable alteration. Eg. Increase in the content of an essential amino acid. The most important reasons for developing transgenic plants are listed-

  1. To improve agricultural, horticultural or ornamentals value of plants.
  2. To develop plant bioreactors for an expensive manufacture of commercially important products. Eg. Proteins, medicines, pharmaceutical compounds.
  3. To study the action of genes in plants during development and various biological processes.

Genetic traits introduced into transgenic plants
Since plant cells are totipotent (i.e. a single plant cell can regenerate into whole plant) the genetically engineered cell with new genes can produce a transgenic plant. This plant carrying the desired trait will give rise to successive generations. Many genetic traits have been introduced into plants through genetic engineering –

  • Resistance to herbicides.
  • Protection against viral infection.
  • Insecticidal activity.
  • Improved nutritional quality.
  • Altered flower pigmentation.
  • Tolerance to environmental stresses.
  • Self incompatibility.

Author:-Ms. Madhuri Sharma

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