Platform to translate biotech breakthroughs
A new platform funded with $ 6.2 million has been launched in India to translate transgenic technology and harness its products to meet the needs of agricultural growth, it was learned from Dr. William Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India.
The Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) is a collaborative project of ICRISAT and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the government of India. PTTC will 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.
Speaking at the launching of the project, Dr. Dar 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. He stressed that the future 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.
Dr. Dar added that finding solutions to major crop productivity constraints, developing new technologies that will increase yields in low-potential areas and creating opportunities for diversification in agricultural value chains are some of the major present day agricultural challenges.
He explained that 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, Dr. Dar said.
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 added.
Transgenics offer 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.
MEDIA BREEFING ON BIOTECH. Meanwhile, Dr. Emil Q. Javier, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, will discuss today the national policies and strategies in bringing the benefits of science and technology in relation to the current food security and economic crisis. This will be at a media briefing co-organized by NAST, SEARCA, and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The briefing is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Richmonde Hotel in Pasig City.
The briefing will also feature the Global Status Report of Biotech Crops in 2008 authored by Dr. Clive James, founder and chairman of ISAAA. The report includes the annual global biotech crop adoption, key milestones in 2008, important growth centers and predictions for the next decade.
By Zac B. Sarian