9) Biotechnology Initiative for the Poor Launched: ICRISAT and DBT Join Hands (September 2001)


ICRISAT and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, launched today a joint biotechnology initiative to overcome major problems of sorghum and chickpea - important staples of the poor in the dry tropics. The joint research will focus on intractable problems that have been until now impossible to solve through conventional technology.

Seven collaborative projects and institutional partners responsible for carrying out these projects were identified during an intense brainstorming session at ICRISAT, Patancheru. The priorities areas selected for collaboration include:

  • Drought resistance in sorghum and chickpea using genome mapping and molecular marker technology
  • Improvement for grain mold resistance and grain quality in sorghum, and for pod borer resistance in chickpea by genetic engineering
  • Production of edible vaccine in groundnut
  • Bioinformatics

ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar set the tone for the workshop by emphasizing the overarching goal of this joint effort, “Biotechnology should be a means that we use to serve the poor. This is the human face of the science and collaborative research that we do.”

Dr Dar added, “In partnership with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), we have had major successes in research on plant improvement using conventional technology. Now, by joining hands with DBT, which brings its expertise in biotechnology, we are strengthening our research. Together we hope to deliver new products in 3-5 years.”

Agreeing whole-heartedly with this objective, Dr Manju Sharma, Secretary, DBT, who is leading this initiative in partnership with ICRISAT, stated, “Since we have to move fast for this, we must work together.” She added that a new national science and technology policy with emphasis on agricultural productivity is soon going to be unveiled in response to the changing world situation.

The collaborative projects were chosen keeping in mind the priorities of both India and ICRISAT. Both share a common vision of improving the livelihood of farmers, especially those living in the dry tropics and increasing the food security in the region. Dr Manju Sharma led the team of scientists from ICAR, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and Indian Universities. A follow-up meeting will be held in New Delhi in November this year and the new projects will be initiated in early 2002.

For more information, please contact Dr N Seetharama.

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