7) Communicating agri-biotech to AP extensionists

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in collaboration with the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP) and the Biotechnology Unit of the Institute of Public Enterprise (IPE) organized a workshop on agri-biotechnology for extension workers from Andhra Pradesh. The workshop was held on 27 and 28 July at the Patancheru campus of ICRISAT.

The workshop attracted participation from government extension workers (3), non-governmental organization representatives (15), private company representatives (12), village sarpanchs (7), and men and women farmers (16).

During the two days, participants interacted with experts on biotechnology from IPE and ICRISAT – Dr MV Rao, Dr Pakki Reddy, Dr Anji Raju, Dr N P Sharma, Dr K B R S Visharda, Dr Kiran K Sharma and Dr Anjaiah. While experts explained concepts on agri-biotechnology and genetic engineering, participants shared questions and got answers.

Their questions focused on:

  • Effectiveness of transgenic crops.
  • The possibility of introducing multiple traits in transgenics.
  • The possibility of developing transgenics by using crop varieties rather than hybrids into transgenics (so that the farmer does not have to buy new seeds every year).
  • Why transgenics are expensive? 
  • The effect of transgenics on health and environment.
  •  If transgenic technology is useful, why is it being promoted slowly in India?

The participants visited ICRISAT's transgenic labs and contained field trial sites. ICRISAT is conducting contained field trials at its Patancheru campus on transgenic groundnut for resistance against the Indian Peanut Clump Virus, and transgenic pigeonpea and chickpea using the Bacillus thuringiensis gene for resistance to the pod borer, Helicoverpa armigera.

As a public-funded international agricultural research institute, ICRISAT's research is helping to increase agricultural productivity of orphan crops that help improve the livelihoods of poor and marginal farmers in the dry tropics. Further, much of ICRISAT's transgenic research is on improved varieties rather than hybrids.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.