Answer to Question #108821 in Biology for Sara Tuccillo

Question #108821
The agricultural company you work for has tasked you and your co-worker to genetically engineer a plant that produces more oxygen that at the same time also produces more sugar. Your co-worker states that this is impossible.

how would you respond to your co-worker?
What is your opinion of the ethics of manipulating crop plants in such a way?
Expert's answer

The increased production of oxygen by a plant can be also associated with the increased production of sugar. Plants produce oxygen at the first step of photosynthesis. During the process. photosystem II, a protein complex located in the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts, absorbs photons and catalyzes photolysis - a split of a water molecule into oxygen (O2), hydrogen ions (H+), and electrons. The released hydrogen ions are further used for the formation of proton gradient required for the production of ATP while electrons are used to form reduced NADPH. Both ATP and NADPH are used to synthesize sugars in plant cells. As a result, it is possible that increased production of oxygen could be associated with the increased synthesis of sugars.

Genetic engineering of crop plants has multiple benefits. In particular, these plants may be resistant to weather conditions and pests. They may be more efficient in the production of certain substances, while the costs used for the agricultural process may be reduced. However, the production of these crops must be controlled due to several significant ethical issues. In particular, the long term effects of such plants on the natural ecosystem and environment are unknown. Next, the putative economic influence of the modified crops on traditional farming cannot be predicted. This may lead to excessive dominance by some agricultural companies. Finally, the long term effects of these crops, in particular, specific pesticides, on human health is not known. As a result, the genetic engineering of crop plants is of great value but requires governmental and social control.

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