Everything You Need To Know About Yellow Biotechnology

Yellow biotechnology (or biotechnology with insects as people know it) is analogous to the red (animals) and green (plants) biotechnology. Yellow biotechnology is the use of bio-engineering to make food better. Making the enormous repository of all the natural substances available to the bio-economy is yellow biotechnology, which is also called ‘Insect Biotechnology’. It’s a modern agriculture branch related to food production where active genes in insects are used for application in agriculture and medicine.

Over 200,000 insect’s species depends upon plant for food. Over time, they have evolved to render plant defenses- plant toxins produced to fend off herbivores. These detoxification processes are coded in various genes. Biotechnology is now working on switching these genes in a way plant toxins are no longer effective. Some makeable progress has also been made with the use of RNAi technology.

On the other hand, the meat industry has a pervasive effect on global environments. Deforestation, heavy feed, and clean water usage are necessary to raise the livestock, while pesticides, antibiotics, and animal waste, directly pollute the environment. From the resource diversion to create farms and their subsequent byproducts- the meat industry is responsible for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions alone.

These Are What Yellow Biotechnology Includes

  • Minimizing environmental exploitation from meat production
  • Modification of plant toxins
  • Extracting useful insects products

The On-Going Applications of Yellow Biotechnology

Yellow Biotechnology related has a wide range of applications for food production. Here are a few examples where Yellow-technology has been effective.

1. Research on Insects To Study Their Gene Functions

Scientists in Germany are using a technique which brings forward the research on insects- They have studied gene functions in moth larvae. They manipulate the genes by using the RNA interference (RNAi) technology (RNAi)- feeding larvae with viral vectors treated plants. This method, named “plant virus-based dsRNA producing system”, increases sample as compared to the use of genetically transformed plants.

2. Vitro Cell Culture Technology For Making Bovine Muscle Tissue

A company founded by Dr. Mark Post is using in vitro cell culture technology on adult cow stem cells for making bovine muscle tissue—aka hamburger meat. As a result, land use is decreased by 99%, greenhouse gas emissions by 96% and water use by 96% when compared to other animal meat products. The experiment was done on Maastricht University, the Netherlands, with 20,000 hand-cultured muscle strands in 2013. Testers noted the meat didn’t have fat or juiciness, but gave 10 out of 10 for the mouthfeel and preferred the in vitro meat over vegetable-based substitute.  The cost of the first hamburger was €250,000 (over $311,000). Further research might make it easier and cheaper.

3. Switch DNA Sequences of Plant Toxin Named Nicotine Using RNAi Technology

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute examined a plant toxin named nicotine. Plants of the species Nicotiana attenuata produce nicotine as a defensive substrate against herbivores but do not have any toxic effects on larvae of the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta). The insect has CYP gene that increases cytochrome P450 enzyme when exposed to nicotine in their food, making it resistant against genes that encode nicotine. Scientists were able to identify the DNA sequences of these CYP genes and switch them using RNAi technology.

Some substances produced by the insects or their microbial symbionts are important in terms of their potential applications. For example, larvae of the common green bottle fly are used as traditional medicine, and the recently recognized maggot therapy is in many places is used to treat chronic or non-healing wounds and disorders such as diabetic foot syndrome.

Future of Yellow Biotechnology

Science is making discoveries and inventions every single day. Every passing day, we get to hear of a new story that could change the way we live and we think someday. Yellow biotechnology also got similar possibilities.

Imagine a sustainable and cheap hamburger on your table, without the costs to the environment or animals (A vegetarian Hamburger?). Or a plant toxin that could do good to your health. Yellow Biotechnology someday aims to apply biotechnological methods for exploiting insect-derived molecules, cells, organs – as products for using it in the fields of medicine, plant protection, or manufacturing. Who knows, we find start raising genetically modified insects for drugs and therapy someday?

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