3) Agri-biotechnological breakthroughs can help solve global food crisis

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, have together launched the project for establishing a Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC). The foundation stone for the PTTC was laid by Dr MK Bhan, Secretary, DBT, and Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, at the Patancheru campus of ICRISAT, near Hyderabad, today.

The DBT-funded Platform is a US$ 6.2 million project that will translate transgenic technology and harness its products to meet the needs of agricultural growth and serve as a facility of reference to strengthen national, regional and international linkages in transgenic R&D, exchange of materials and information, as well as support training, consultation and technology commercialization. s

The PTTC will provide an opportunity for public sector research institutes and private sector biotechnology companies to work together for translating transgenic research into products.

Speaking at the foundation stone laying function, Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, said that research breakthroughs in agri-biotechnology hold the potential for increasing crop productivity and the resistance of food crops to pests and diseases, thereby helping solve the food crisis. The f uture food demand cannot be met merely from incremental gains from conventional plant breeding. A quantum change in yield improvement is needed, such as that which occurred during the Green Revolution.

Finding solutions to major crop productivity constraints, developing new technologies that raise yields in low-potential areas and creating opportunities for diversification in agricultural value chains are some of the major present day agricultural challenges, Dr Dar added.

Agri-biotechnologies are a further step in an evolution that extends from the dawn of agriculture. These technologies offer a new set of tools to enhance crop productivity and profitability.

In 2008, another 40 million people were pushed into hunger due to high food prices! A majority of the world’s undernourished, over 900 million, live in developing countries alone! The world hunger crisis may further deteriorate as the financial crisis combined with the energy crisis, and emerging climate change issues threaten livelihoods. Hence combating the food crisis will require much greater investments in agriculture.

ICRISAT believes that biotechnology can contribute to global food, feed and fiber security; improve health and nutrition; use less external inputs for a more sustainable agriculture and environment; conserve biodiversity and help improve economic and social status and alleviate poverty in poor countries, Dr Dar said.

Transgenics offers a powerful tool for nutritional enhancement that may save lives or help farmers adapt to climate change through faster integration of genes for drought and flood tolerance, in the process generating social, economic and environmental benefits for resource-poor farmers.

According to Dr Bhan, the PTTC will bring together the expertise of DBT and ICRISAT and build partnerships to strengthen the conceptualization, development and delivery of agri-biotechnological research products that will ultimately benefit the Indian farmers in improving their incomes.

By financially supporting the PTTC, the DBT wants to fund research and provide infrastructure for innovation, so that transgenic technology can strengthen agricultural productivity, Dr Bhan said. The PTTC will add value to research by strengthening trust and reliability. The Platform will also bring together the unlimited creative strength of partnerships for strengthening agricultural research.

For further information contact Dr Kiran K Sharma at .

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