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Carbon dioxide levels and photorespiration

second agricultural revolution, based on plant genetic engineering, was forecast to lead to increases in plant productivity and thereby partially alleviate malnutrition. Since the 1970s, molecular biologists have possessed the means to alter a plant’s genetic material (deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA) with the aim of achieving improvements in disease and drought resistance, product yield and quality, frosthardiness, and other desirable properties. However, such traits are inherently complex, and the process of making changes to crop plants through genetic engineering has turned out to be more complicated than anticipated. In the future such genetic engineering may result in improvements in the process of photosynthesis, but by the first decades of the 21st century, it had yet to demonstrate that it could dramatically increase crop yields.

Another intriguing area in the study of photosynthesis has been the discovery that certain animals are able to convert light energy into chemical energy. The emerald green sea slug (Elysia chlorotica), for example, acquires genes and chloroplasts from Vaucheria litorea, an alga it consumes, giving it a limited ability to produce chlorophyll. When enough chloroplasts are assimilated, the slug may forgo the ingestion of food. The pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) can harness light to manufacture the energy-rich compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP); this ability has been linked to the aphid’s manufacture of carotenoidpigments.