Synthetic Biology in Agriculture: Engineering a Sustainable Food Future

Global food security is currently under threat due to the explosive growth in the world’s population, climate change, and ongoing war. According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report, around one-third of the world’s population still faces food insecurity. India, which surpasses China in total population, needs sustainable agriculture development to solve the food crisis in rural areas by the end of 2030.

Synthetic biology, an advancement in modern agriculture, can transform the corp’s metabolic pathways and genetic information. In addition, it brings new prospects to crop breeding while ensuring the safety of agricultural production. The agriculture sector’s growth prospects have increased positively in the last decade. 

As per BIS Research, the global agriculture and food market backed by synthetic biology is projected to grow from $3.20 billion in 2020 to $14.12 billion by 2025. In the predicted report, researchers at BIS also stated that the CAGR growth rate during this period would be 34.56 percent.

With the global demand for sustainable agriculture expected to increase in the coming years, modern biological technologies like synthetic biology have been expedited to enhance agriculture yield per hectare.

Dynamics of the Regional Synthetic Biology Market

The global market share in synthetic biology holds a majority in North America and Europe. With the highest penetration rate, North America is leading and is expected to show robust market growth in the coming years. In the forecasting period of 2020-2025, Asian countries like India are expected to flourish as one of the lucrative synthetic biology markets in agriculture and food. The genomics revolution in India and system biology promote a rigorous discipline to create, control, and programme the cellular behaviour of crops.

Revolution by Synthetic Biology

Plant-based synthetic biology has various applications, including improving nutritional quality, creating new materials, and engineering resilient crops. As per the Oxford Academic Journal, synthetic biology promotes sustainable agriculture by reprogramming biological systems. In 2022, a conference named Plant Synthetic Biology was held in Barcelona, Spain, where there was a live discussion on major challenges and potential synthetic biology applications.

Gene Targeting in Agriculture

Gene targeting, which involves a precise modification of a genome to alter, modify, and introduce specific traits, is a step towards synthetic biology. An ever-evolving agriculture in India still has limited resources for gene-targeting, which can bring precise results. The global and domestic demand to use a diverse spectrum of synthetic biology to improve plants’ growth and quality also brings various challenges in front of bioscientists.

Bio-Engineered Milk

Synthetic biology in India is an addition to biotechnology that will revolutionise the diet and animal-based products. Animal-free milk, also known as bio-engineered milk, contains proteins like casein, which are produced using synthetic biology. This process of producing milk has various benefits for the dairy sector, which include less dependency on animals to meet the demands. 

The milk substitutes produced with synthetic biology help milk factories grow in a bioreactor, eliminating problems like antibiotics and hormone contamination. Apart from this, bio-engineered milk is closer in composition to breast milk for infants to promote healthy development.

Zero-Calories Sweeteners

According to Science Direct, the majority of people are attracted to plant-based zero-calorie sweeteners due to health issues such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. The pathways and genes required to make natural sweeteners using synthetic biology are a great alternative to the traditional fermentation method. The advantage of zero-calorie sweeteners is that they don’t cause changes in blood glucose or insulin levels. In addition, it can’t be metabolised by humans.

A Step Towards Sustainable Agriculture

The Indian agriculture sector is evolving, and the changing lifestyle of the people makes scientists and the government take the initiative in sustainable agriculture. Synthetic biology for agriculture and food is seen as a small step towards the goal of eliminating food insecurity by 2030. Since this biotechnology is not widely used in India, bioengineers, scientists, and leaders are responsible for spreading awareness among the milk and food industries.

The nutritionally deficient and chemical-backed foods on the market threaten human health, which is also suspected by The National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Synthetic biology in agriculture and food can be a secure and long-lasting solution to sustainable agriculture.

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