Submitted to: International Crop Science Congress Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: September 25, 2006
Publication Date: October 11, 2006
Citation: Mattoo, A.K. 2006. Nutritional enhancement of crops via genetic engineering: prospects for human health and future agriculture. In: Proceedings of the International Crop Science Congress, July 24-30, 2006, Bangkok, Thailand.
Interpretive Summary: This is a summarized text of a paper presented at the International Crop-Science Conference and Exhibition held in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2006. This conference was organized by the Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulations Association who had organized one of the symposia to learn how genetically engineered (GM) crops will fare in the future of world agriculture. This particular paper was sought to provide a glimpse into the approaches of genetic engineering to influence the enhancement of biomolecules in vegetables and fruits, biomolecules that have been implicated as antioxidants that have the potential to prevent epithelial cancers, improve cardiovascular health and enhance immune system in humans and animals. Particular emphasis was given to effectiveness and precision of GM technology to increase the concentration of the phytonutrients to levels not previously possible via breeding strategies. This paper will be of equal interest to scientists and nutrition-conscious public who are not exposed to the benefits of genetically engineered technology in crop improvement.
Daily dietary intake of a few courses of vegetables and fruits provides nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber for maintaining a healthy person. Phytonutrients are recommended as part of human diet because recent studies have shown them to help prevent chronic diseases. Required daily allowance (RDA) for each phytonutrient is different but much below the levels normally found in the amounts of vegetables and fruits an average person consumes. Traditional breeding strategies in conjunction with conventional agriculture led to higher crop yields and created Green Revolution. However, these traditional strategies have resulted in only small incremental gains in the nutrient levels in crops. A new biotechnology platform – due to advances made in recombinant DNA technology, tissue culture techniques and regeneration protocols – has provided a technological leap by our ability to manipulate genes and produce transgenic crops with higher nutritional quality, longer shelf life, and inbuilt-traits for disease and pest resistance. Because of the current Biotechnology Revolution we are able to efficiently and precisely re-tailor genes for better efficacy, remove genetic barriers, and enable gene transfer between crops or distinctly different organisms (animals, bacteria, yeasts and plants). In my laboratory, we are engineering metabolic pathways and introducing signaling molecules in a tissue-specific manner with the goal to develop designer crops that are enriched for higher amounts of different, health-promoting nutrients such as lycopene - cancer-fighting antioxidant, calcium – prevents osteoporosis, choline – critical for brain development, essential amino acids – important for flavor components but quite deficient in crops. We have developed several novel tomato genotypes using transgenic technology and have pyramided genes by making crosses among these. We are generating data on their transcriptome (DNA macroarrays and northerns), proteome (immunoblots) and metabolome (NMR). Based on the data, we synthesize new information to provide definitive information about cross talk and networks that plant organs use to modulate their cellular metabolism and thereby impact nutritional and agronomic attributes as well as defense against disease and pests. We are also integrating these genotypes in sustainable, alternative agriculture production systems to define gene (G) x environment (E) interactions. The latter represents a production system that improves the carbon and nitrogen use efficiency of crop plants. Our integrative approach is producing tools and resources for the genetic improvement of vegetable and fruit crops in terms of production, quality, vine/shelf life, and tolerance to oxidative stresses.