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The Next Big Thing in A.B.U. Zaria.

It’s been more than a long while. It’s been millennia. I’m so sorry I’ve been AWOL. Final Year happened. I promise to try to resume blogging next month, God’s willing. Meanwhile, I wrote a piece A.B.U’s NAAS (National Association of Agricultural Students) magazine a few months ago. Kudos and many thanks to the NAAS President, Comrade Hussaini Ahmed. The magazine was successfully launched last week, so I thought to share it with you guys. It’s kind of science’ish but I promise, not too boring. Haha. If at all, the line at the bottom should make it worth the read, I think. Enjoy.
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Agriculture has been theorized to be the first profession of man. In his early years, he gathered herbs for his consumption, and with the discovery of fire, gathered and cultivated more crops. He then went on to domesticate animals and found various uses for them apart from consuming their flesh, such as the consumption of the milk they produce, the eggs they lay and the use of their skin for making clothes. Since then man has constantly modified his agricultural methods to maximize his efforts and produce as much food as possible to feed his exponentially increasing population. These methods which have been largely successful, include, the use of machineries such as tractors, the application of fertilizers and manure and the use of pesticides. However, man still continues to explore ways in which he can improve his Agriculture, especially with methods such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides causing environmental problems. Thus, Man found Biotechnology, the integration of natural biological science and living organism very useful in his quest for Agricultural improvement.

Biotechnology is the manipulation of living organisms or their components, through genetic engineering, to improve on them or produce useful products from them. Biotechnology involves the use of genetic engineering to identify, isolate and extract particular DNA responsible for a desired trait in a particular organism and thereafter inserts it into another, lacking the trait. Biotechnology has a wide applicability and apart from its various application in Agriculture, it is used in medicine to manufacture existing medicines easily and cheaply. For Example, Insulin, which is used in the treatment of diabetes, formerly extracted from the pancreas of livestock animals is been produced on a large and cheap scale using the bacterium Escherichia coli which has been genetically engineered. It has also been found useful in industries for the large scale production of several industrially important substances such as ethanol and acetone using genetically modified microorganisms.

The use of biotechnology in agriculture has led to the production of crops referred to as Genetically Modified (GM) Crops, which are plants or crops whose DNA have been modified via genetic engineering to achieve a desirable character. Biotechnology has been used to produce crops which are highly resistant to pests and diseases, thereby reducing the use of pesticides which subsequently cause environmental pollution. For example, specific isolated DNA of Bacillus thuringiensis has been used to confer pesticides capability upon some crops. B. thuringiensis produces secretions which attack the larvae of various insect pest. The isolation of the gene responsible for these secretions and its consequent expression in a plant upon insertion into its genetic code helps combat insect pests attack and reduce the use of pesticides. The most popular crops that have been genetically modified in this way include corn and potatoes and they are being referred to as Bt. Corn and Bt. Potatoes. Several genetic codes have also been inserted into plants such as canola, soybeans, cocoa and cotton seed to help them resist several diseases and even herbicides which may affect them when applied to weeds. Some plants such as tomatoes have been genetically modified to resist severe environmental conditions, thereby allowing them to grow in places or at a time in which they will normally not grow, and making them available at all times and to all regions. The nutrient profile and productivity of several crops have also been modified to make them more nutritious and productive. Food crops such as Mangoes, Tubers and Grains have been made to produce bigger fruits and more seeds. The nutrient profile of Cash crops such as Soybeans, Rice, Canola and Cotton Seed Oil have also being improved.

The first commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. In 2010, 10% of the world’s crop lands were planted with GM and as of 2011, 11 different transgenic crops were grown commercially on 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 29 countries such as the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain. In 2013, roughly 85% of corn, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton produced in the US were genetically modified. Experimental research are still ongoing for the production of genetically modified livestock and none is currently on the market. There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food. GM crops also provide a number of ecological benefits, if not used in excess. However, there are concerns on whether food produced from GM crops are safe and whether GM crops are needed to address the world’s food needs as well as environmental concerns. No matter, Biotechnology is fast becoming the in-thing and probably may be the next big thing, not only in Agricultural improvement but in all aspects of Human life.

Who knows, biotechnology may eventually be used to modify the human genome, ushering in the next evolved man with super powers. Our fantasies of Superman, Batman, and Spiderman may eventually become reality.
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BTW. A great birthday to my lil sister, Mariam. Wishing you long life and prosperity. God bless your new age.

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