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9-Misc: USAID and India build up framework to promote GE crops



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TITLE:  India To Institutionalise GM Crops
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B Sharma
        http://www.financialexpress.com/archive.html#
DATE:   May 18, 2003

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India To Institutionalise GM Crops

India has decided to set up an institutional framework for promoting
researches and applications of transgenic crops. This institutional
framework would channelise the expected assistance from the United States
meant for promoting transgenic crops in the country.

Institutions like the department of biotechnology (DBT), Indian Council
of Agricultural Research (ICAR), National Centre for Plant Genome
Research (NCPGR) and Indo-US Science and Technology Forum will jointly
work for setting up this proposed institutional framework.

The DBT secretary, Dr Manju Sharma expressed her happiness after the
conclusion of three-day Indo-US Agricultural Biotechnology Conference in
Delhi on Saturday and said "all efforts of concerned organisations should
be converged in setting up of the institutional framework." The three day
conference was jointly organised by the DBT, ICAR, NCPGR, Agricultural
Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP-II) of the US, Indo-US Science &
Technology Forum and the USAID. This seminar was a part of the recent US
attempts to rope in developing countries for promoting transgenic
technology in agriculture.

Presenting an overview of the US approach, the USAID's biotechnology
adviser, Dr Bhavani Pathak said that that the American interest is
embedded within the larger goals of agricultural productivity, food
security and nutrition in the developing countries. Under the ABSP-I, the
US has been rendering support for technology and policy development in
different countries and core support to the CGIAR system particularly for
the development of 'Golden Rice'. The ABSP-I has also supported
collaborative research projects and individual research projects like
that for rinderpest and heartwater vaccines for Africa. In India the ABSP
has been assisting in the development of beta carotene 'Golden Mustard Seeds'.

He said that the ABSP-II is a part of the collaborative agricultural
biotechnology (CABIO) initiative. Other areas of CABIO activities are for
supporting research innovations, public and private sector
infrastructure, capacity building, scientific training, programme for
biosafety systems and safeguarding intellectual property rights. He also
made it clear that the US does not intend to pressurise any country in
developing a particular biosafety and IPR system.

Prof Vernon E Gracen of the department of plant breeding, Cornell
University, US, however stressed the importance of undertaking detailed
study in functional genomics before embarking on development of
transgenic crops. He said such a detailed study can help to ensure the
health and environmental safety of genetically modified crops. He
suggested that after the successful sequencing of rice genome, the
scientists should concentrate on the study of functional genomics of rice.

Participating in the discussions the director of Indian Agricultural
Research Institute (IARI), Dr S Nagarajan expressed a different view. He
said that malnutrition problems cannot be solved by GM crops alone.
Cultivation of traditional varieties of millets, pulses and horticulture
crops should be encouraged. IARI is a part of the ICAR system in the country.