Despite the controversies surrounding human and animal cloning, various forms of plant cloning are widely accepted in the agricultural world. In fact, many common foods such as seedless grapes and oranges are available because of plant cloning. While there are some dangers to consider with plant cloning, there are plenty of benefits that could prove vital to the propagation of the human species.
Plant cloning has been an agricultural technique used by farmers and gardeners for centuries. It involves taking a tissue sample from a parent plant, exposing it to nutrients and specific hormones, and allowing it to grow as an identical replica of the original plant. Grafting is a common form of plant cloning. Many plants in nature actually clone themselves and reproduce asexually, including sumac, sassafras and gray dogwood. They do this by releasing a shoot-like underground structure called a runner, which then produces plants that are genetically identical to the original.
The economic benefits to plant cloning are endless. First, cloned plants are much more predictable than normal plants, so their yields are more reliable. This can save the agricultural industry millions of dollars. Cloned plants also reproduce faster, limiting the amount of time between planting and harvesting. Plants that are resistant to pesticides can be reproduced more efficiently. It is also often cheaper to produce seeds via cloning than through traditional methods. Plants can essentially be optimized so that farmers or individual growers always have the best seeds available. With more yield at a faster rate, farms can produce more food for more people while decreasing overall costs.
Prevention of Plant Diseases
Plant cloning is also very useful in the prevention of plant diseases. Cloning via tissue culture can be used to eradicate diseases that previously killed off entire fields of crops. This would make plants immune to the kinds of diseases that farmers and gardeners around the world dread each year. Crop failures due to disease and virus could become a thing of the past. Also, plants that are near extinction can be essentially brought back to life through cloning.
Through cloning and genetic manipulation, scientists can develop "super" fruits and vegetables of superior nutritional quality. This could result in decreases in nutritional deficiencies around the world and make for a healthier population overall. This is already being done through selective pollination, and genetic cloning could take it to the next level.
The main risk involved in plant cloning is genetic uniformity. By "playing God," we disrupt the natural evolutionary process in which only the best plants survive. In a population of identical plants, all these plants are equally susceptible to the same diseases, whereas in nature the weak would die and the strong would survive. There is also the risk of possible negative health affects on humans as a result of plant cloning, such as cancer and other genetic abnormalities.
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