The Use of Biotechnology to Help Sustain Human Populations

By Z.M.G. Sarwar Jahangir and Ronald Eckhardt.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Today the world’s population is over 6.8 billion and it is projected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050. This will increase demand for food, cotton, fuel, medicine, housing materials and other goods by at least 150%. The increased population will decrease availability of land for farming, housing, transportation and recreation. In addition, global warming will increase salinity, decrease fresh water resources, and reduce farm lands, and thus decrease food production. Increased human activity will pollute the environment, negatively affecting life and human health. Run-off insecticides, fertilizer, sewage and urban pollution may change much of the environment, making it unsustainable for life. It is imperative that sustainability measures be implemented now to help accommodate increased human populations.
Biotechnology, on the other hand, has already demonstrated that it has the tools to develop insect resistant crops for food and fiber, avoiding pollution from harmful insecticides and fertilizers. It can transfer specific characteristics across species boundaries to obtain desired traits in bacteria, protists, fungi, plants and animals. Thus, it can develop crops with genes for nitrogen fixing, salt tolerance, nutrition enrichment, and high yields. These techniques can generate fish to grow many times faster without affecting their natural appearance and to spawn multiple times on demand. It can produce nutritionally balanced low fat chicken and eggs rich in omega-3 fatty acids and milk from cattle containing antibodies and other biologics, as appropriate. These techniques have the ability to develop pollutant clarifying organisms and replenishable biofuel. Similarly, these techniques allow us to produce new antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, neurotransmitters and other biologics that would be impossible or difficult to obtain otherwise.
Thus, the appropriate application of biotechnology will be able to increase, both in quality and quantity, the production of food, cotton, medicine, wood, fuel, and agents for environmental clean-up and thus reduce pollution while conserving and sustaining life as well as the environment. It is extremely important that planning for the expanded use of biotechnological techniques be explored now to prepare for future challenges.

Keywords: Animal, Bacteria, Biofuel, Biologics, Biotechnology, Environment, Fungus, Gene Transfer, Growth Gene, Insecticides, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Plantae, Pollution, Protista, Salt Tollerant, Spawn on Demand, Sustainability, Vaccine, World Population

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.59-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 916.959KB).

Dr. Z.M.G. Sarwar Jahangir

Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Program, Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Dr. Z.M.G. Sarwar Jahangir is a tenured Assistant Professor at Kingsborough Community College (KCC) of The City University of New York (CUNY), and Director of the Biotechnology Degree program. He teaches Recombinant DNA Technology and Cell Culture technology and also a Co-corordinator for Introduction to Modern Biology. Earlier he taught in Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), University of Alberta, Brooklyn College, Richard Stockton College and Wabash College in Bangladesh, Canada and USA. He received Baccalaureate from BAU, M.Sc. form Cochin University of Science and Technology, India, and Ph.D. from CUNY in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is engaged in teaching and research in biotechnology for over 15 years, and has extensive earlier experience on fish reproductive neuroendocrinology. With a grant from NOAA (1992-1995) developed a stock of lake sturgeon with ∃-galctosidase gene, developed a biotechnology laboratory and a course on biotechnology at Stockton College, taught advanced genetics at Wabash College (2000-2001), developed research on microsatellite DNA for fish population identification funded by NOAA (2000-2002) and PSC-CUNY (2005), and an Advisor to BAU for developing a biotechnology program (2000). Currently, at KCC his research is on gene transfer to produce therapeutic biologics, and also collaborating scientists in Bangladesh for developing fast growing rohu and to spawn on demand.

Dr. Ronald Eckhardt

Professor, Department of Biology, Brooklyn College of The City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Dr. Ronald A. Eckhardt is Professor of Biology at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York having served for 40 years. He has taught graduate courses including Cell Culture, Virology, and Molecular/Cell Biology. In the past, he has been Chair of the Department of Biology and Dean of Continuing Higher Education. He received his BS in 1964 from Loyola College, Baltimore, MD, and his PhD in 1969 from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, & Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Oak Ridge, TN. He also completed a Post-Doc (1969-71) at Yale University, New Haven, CT. He has supervised many graduate students including four receiving PhD’s in Cell and Molecular Biology, numerous MS degrees in Biology, and has published over 75 articles in peer reviewed journals. He has received grants as a PI or Co-PI from federal, state and private agencies for developing transgenic lake sturgeon carrying a ∃-galactosidase marker gene, developing microsatellite DNA markers for goosefish population identification, and for de-differentiation/re-differentiation of melanocytes in vitro for human neurotherapy. Currently, he is a Co-PI for two grants from the National Science Foundation and the PI of a New York State Department of Education STEP grant as well as a Royal Society of Chemistry, US Chapter, award recipient for facilitating minority science student research. He is also currently collaborating with scientists in Bangladesh for developing fast growing and spawning-on-demand rohu fish.

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