Use of biotechnology-based solutions for agricultural growth, as well as to cope with the changing climate conditions, is indispensable, observed a high-level delegation from six African nations.
Policy makers and experts from Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Kenya visited the ICRISAT headquarters as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)/African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) biotechnology/biosafety study tour organized in collaboration with Michigan State University.
“We wish to modernize our agricultural systems. We need a more effective system of research and dissemination of technologies. This is a priority for our respective governments,” the delegates said while interacting with the top management of ICRISAT. They expressed strong interest to partner with ICRISAT for enhancing food and nutrition security, food safety as well as regional and international trade.
Enhancing gains from plant breeding by applying biotechnology, and developing accurate and cost-effective tools to diagnose pathogens and toxins has been a critical component of ICRISAT’s research activities. Citing the success of developing aflatoxin-free groundnut, Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT said: “We are at the forefront of world-leading research that can lead to significant benefits for smallholder farmers and consumers. We need more support for being able to translate and take this research from laboratories to farmer fields in Africa”.
Availability of innovative technologies in a breeder’s tool kit, significantly reduces the time and effort needed to develop newer varieties, and allow more precision. ICRISAT uses biotechnology for crop improvement when other plant breeding options are non-existent to make high-quality plant varieties available for farmers, providing possibility to produce food and feed in a more efficient and sustainable way as well as much-needed economic benefits.
The Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC), an ICRISAT-Department of Biotechnology (DBT) initiative, focuses on advancing promising Ag-biotechnologies through a development cycle with adequate safety assessments.
“Policy makers are key to making big impacts in agriculture and uptake of biotechnology,” said Dr Paco Sereme, Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board. Forging a dynamic regional and international technological partnership in agriculture is the way forward for advancing food security and poverty reduction in Africa, he added.
“We will increase our efforts towards sensitizing policy makers and media on the concept and advantages of biotechnologies in crop improvement for developing better varieties, which can lead to food and nutrition security. We look forward to continuous collaboration with African nations, especially on biosafety aspects, capacity building and technology,” said Dr Kiran Sharma, Deputy Director General- Research, ICRISAT.
Dr Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, Theme Leader – Cell, Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering, briefed the delegation on biotechnological applications for crop improvement and advanced testing and detection mechanisms. She also appraised the delegation on the ongoing efforts at ICRISAT on advanced breeding methodologies such as rapid generation turnover (RGT) techniques for realizing crop improvements more quickly and efficiently.
The visit was capped with the delegation’s expression of full support to the new, emerging partnerships to tackle food security and poverty reduction in the region, particularly to the revitalized ICRISAT collaboration and the new partnership dynamics under various national programs.