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Disadvantages of Plant Cloning

The Grim Disadvantages of Plant Cloning That Shouldn't Be Overlooked

When it comes to plant cloning, there is no raging debate in the media unlike the case of animal cloning. However, even though a general sense of relaxation with respect to plant cloning prevails among people, it is a fact that plant cloning has several pros and cons. In this article, we review about the same.
Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Cloning is by far the most revolutionary and controversial inventions of contemporary science. While animal cloning ethics have become a matter of global debate, bioethicists are scared of the fact that after cloning sheep and animals, the scientific community is heading towards cloning human beings. Plant cloning debate, on the other hand, is lessened in intensity owing to the simple fact that several foods and fruits in agricultural world have been produced based on the fundamentals of cloning. Several merits and demerits of plant cloning must be kept in mind while forming your views regarding plant cloning.
Plant Cloning: An Overview
Since thousands of centuries, techniques of plant cloning have been prevalent in several civilizations in some or the other forms. Gardeners and farmers in almost every country have been aware of simple methods to produce an identical plant. It is indeed fascinating to know that a cloned plant will have same features as of the parent plant. It will have same disease fighting strength (some people don't agree to this), fruit shape & color, flower color and similar growth habits. There are many plants that clone themselves by the process of asexual reproduction {a species is said to reproduce asexually if cell(s) of a single parent are only required for reproduction}.
Natural asexual reproduction in plants occurs through various organs of the plant like underground stems (typical examples include: rhizomes, onion bulbs, potato tubers), leaves (plant Bryophyllum), roots (dandelion) and apomixis (asexual reproduction through dispersion of seeds). Besides the natural method of self cloning, plants have been cloned artificially by many known and unknown methods since ages. Some very famous methods of asexual reproduction in plants are rooting cuttings, grafting budding, apomictic seeds, bulbs division, runners, tissue culture and nucellar embryos. With extensive research in botany, different methods of artificial asexual reproduction are being developed. As you are now aware of methods to clone plants artificially, you should also know about its merits and demerits.
Plant Cloning Pros
There are numerous advantages of plant cloning like;
  • It helps in producing individuals of same species faster and in desired quantities. It is like a quick and relatively speedy method to fulfill requirements of large quantities of a single species plant.
  • Since all cloned plants will grow in fixed time, it is easier to predict the time between planting and harvesting. In an agricultural economy, this can be a great boost to crop cultivation and earning for farmers.
  • Plants with better resilience toward pesticides and chemical fertilizers can be produced by cloning.
  • It is a cheaper option than conventional methods of growing plants. You just have to cut a twig, stem and plant it using some methods of cloning.
  • By growing a single plant with excellent nutritional benefits, one can clone it to get similar plants with same benefits. This can help to solve issues of poor vegetable and fruit quality.
  • Since yields can be faster through plant cloning, issues of food problems can be resolved by producing large quantities of crops.
Plant Cloning Cons
Disadvantages of plant cloning have become a topic of concern for environmentalists and botany scholars who are concerned with several features of plant being destroyed due to cloning. Here are some demerits of cloning a plant.
  • Genetic diversity is adversely affected due to cloning. Same species, with same sets of features may be produced in great quantities, but there is a lack of genetic variety in cloned plants. In nature, this doesn't happen. Every individual plant, irrespective of being of the same species, has its own tolerance towards diseases and environmental changes. In cloned plants, this is a major drawback. Cloned plants cannot withstand changing environmental factors and if a disease strikes even a single cloned plant, it can wipe out the entire crop.
  • Since cloned plants are identical in looks, it can be disadvantage to use them for decorative purposes. Home gardening and landscaping can eventually turn out to be monotonous.
  • Natural evolution of plants, if hindered can lead to imbalance in natural way of vegetation and growth of crops.
  • There remains a question mark on the future of plant cloning. It is unpredictable and still lots of research is required to understand the issue of genetic variation.
  • If plant cloning is done on an extensive scale, there is a possibility of food becoming more commercialized. While numerous third world countries can be helped for food shortages, it can't be denied that those in power will not lose the opportunity to commercialize plant cloning for gaining more control of food reserves.
  • Problems of deforestation that is believed to be solved by plant cloning, again carries the threat of triggering poor bio diversity. We know that forests are one of the exemplary examples of rich bio diversity. If same species are planted, richness of diversity is bound to decrease.
The debate on plant cloning has no end especially when we weigh both advantages and disadvantages of plant cloning. While commercially, it is great for agriculture, nobody can predict how harmful it can be, if farmers adopt cloning instead of traditional, age-old and successful methods of farming. With scarcity of food becoming a global problem for third world countries, it can be said that the future of plant cloning will certainly assume more significance. History has witnessed incidents like the 'Great Potato Famine of Ireland', the worst agrarian crisis ever in the history of any country. This famine that led to deaths of millions of people in Ireland occurred due to a disease that wiped the entire potato crop, that was the main economic source and principal diet of Ireland in those times. Complete dependence on a single species of crop can lead to such tragic incidents.
Personally, I don't find it great to interfere with the diversity of our natural vegetation. What about you? Don't you find demerits of plant cloning too serious for us to consider it on a large scale? You are most welcome to share your views with us. Drop in your comments in the comment box below.