GENET archive


7-Business: Indian farm research sector opened to U.S. companies

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  India to host Asian biotech training centre
SOURCE: SciDev.Net, UK, by Wagdy Sawahel
DATE:   10 Nov 2005

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India to host Asian biotech training centre

India is to host a US$7 million centre to provide biotechnology training
and research opportunities for scientists from across Asia.

The centre, which was given official backing by UNESCO last month, will
also be a hub for biotechnology research, promoting South-South cooperation.

The Indian science ministry's department of biotechnology will run the
centre, which is likely in the capital New Delhi, although this has not
yet been confirmed.

India is contributing core funding for the centre, but once it is set up,
the government will seek additional funds from UN agencies and other
international bodies.

In addition to holding biotechnology training courses, the centre will
hold international conferences and workshops. It will also set up a
central database of information on Asian biotechnology research.

By promoting networking between researchers in different countries, the
centre aims to encourage collaborative research and development
programmes between research centres in Asia.

Anwar Nasim, president of the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations
and chair of Pakistan's National Commission on Biotechnology, welcomes
the initiative's policy of strengthening South-South cooperation.

Asian countries such as India, China and Malaysia have shown increasing
competence in agricultural and health biotechnology, he told SciDev.Net,
adding that such nations would benefit by sharing their knowledge and

Biotechnology capabilities vary widely among Asian countries, however,
and if they compete rather than work together, this could be a barrier
for technology and knowledge transfer.

But Nasim said that such international competition occurs all over the world.

"In a way, this [competition] could be healthy, and an incentive for the
weaker partners to try and catch up," he said. "However those countries
that are ahead hopefully will be generous enough to carry others along."
Nasim added that agencies such as UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization) should intervene to make it easier for
scientists to get visas to travel between India and Pakistan.

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Indian farm research sector opened to U.S. companies
SOURCE: The Hindu, India, by Gargi Parsai
DATE:   13 Nov 2005

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Indian farm research sector opened to U.S. companies

NEW DELHI: India on Saturday opened its public sector agriculture
research sector to U.S. private companies enabling the private sector to
"help identify research areas" that have the potential for "rapid
commercialisation" with a view to developing new and commercially viable
technologies for agricultural advancement in both countries.

This public-private partnership was described as a key feature of the
U.S.-India Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Education, Research,
Service and Commercial Linkages. The objective of the Initiative is to
re-energise the Indo-U.S. partnership by promoting teaching, research,
service and commercial linkages to address "contemporary challenges."

Areas of collaboration are expected to include research on sustainable
agriculture and marketing systems, the use of new information and
communication technologies commercialisation, and implementation of
international food safety and sanitary requirements.

Witnessed by the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, Sharad Pawar,
and the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Portman, the Knowledge
Initiative Joint Declaration was signed by Director General of ICAR
Mangala Rai and Under-Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural
Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture J.B. Penn.

The agreement flows from the Joint Statement signed between U.S.
President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the
latter's visit to the U.S. in July and is a precursor to Mr. Bush's visit
to India next February. After signing the agreement India and the U.S.
announced the setting up of a Knowledge Initiative Board comprising eight
members from either side drawn from academia, government and the private
sector to recommend specific projects and funding sources. Foreign
Agricultural Service Administrator Ellen Terpstra will co-chair the Board
along with Mr. Mangala Rai. The first meeting of the Board will be held
in December in the U.S.

"The goal of the agreement is to re-energise the agricultural
relationship between the two nations through collaborative efforts in
agricultural research, education and commercial linkages," Mr. Penn said.

The declaration said a "key feature" of the Initiative would be the
public-private partnership between the U.S. and India. When asked whether
there would be dual ownership or co-ownership of the collaborative
research under an Intellectual Property Rights regime, Mr. Penn said,
"Both countries will benefit mutually. We have a system in place to
protect intellectual property rights."

In his response to the question, Dr. Rai said: "The Board will meet and
identify areas of mutual interest. The intellectual property ownership
would be decided on a case-to-case basis depending on what is the
tangible research, what have been the inputs and what would be the
outcome." The joint declaration said agriculture itself had become more
global in its reach, more complex in trade and exchanges, more
technologically grounded and ever more challenged with balancing
sustainability, productivity and social responsiveness.

On collaborative research the joint declaration said the possible focus
areas would include improvements in biotechnology, bio-products,
sustainable management of water and natural resources, pest management
support systems, food safety systems, wastage free food storage, and
value added food products. The agreement said the Initiative might
consider areas for joint research using biotechnology for harnessing
genetic potential of agriculturally important plant and animal species.
The Joint Working Group on Agricultural Biotechnology, a USAID supported
effort, is likely to coordinate with this initiative to promote these
objectives. It will also consider research that has potential for rapid
commercialisation, which can develop new and commercially viable
technologies for agricultural advancement in both countries.

                                 PART III
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TITLE:  Indo-US agriculture research board formed
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India
DATE:   13 Nov 2005

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Indo-US agriculture research board formed

THE Ministry of Agriculture and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
will form a Knowledge Initiative Board to encourage joint research in

The first board meeting to will be held in the US next month. The members
will be from the Government, academia and private sector for specific
projects and funding sources. The board will develop its findings in a
report that will be delivered to both the Agriculture Ministry and USDA
in 2006, after meeting first in the US and later in India, said an
official statement.

It will also initiate a public-private partnership where the private
sector can help identify research areas that have the potential for rapid
commercialisation. The initiative may consider areas for joint research
by using biotechnology for harnessing the genetic potential of plant and
animal species.

"The board will have its first meeting in US in December, followed by a
meeting early next year in India in advance of President Bush's expected
visit to India in February," the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign
Agricultural Services, USDA, Mr J. B. Penn, said.

The agreement was signed by the ICAR Director General, Mr Mangala Rai,
and Mr Penn in the presence of the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar,
and the US Trade Representative, Mr Robert Portman.

                                 PART IV
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TITLE:  Private-public partnership to make transgenic crops affordable
SOURCE: TheHindu Business Line, India, by R. Balaji
DATE:   14 Nov 2005

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Private-public partnership to make transgenic crops affordable

Coimbatore - A public private partnership between Mahyco, academic
institutions and private sector seed companies in India, Bangladesh and
Philippines aims to make transgenic crops affordable to more farmers in
the region.

Under the USAID-supported project, a number of varieties and hybrids of
genetically modified eggplant (brinjal) resistant to fruit and shoot
borers are being developed. Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co Ltd (Mahyco) is
providing the technology to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University ;
University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; Indian Institute of
Vegetable Research, Varanasi; University of Philippines, Los Banos;
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and a private sector seed
company, East West Seeds, Bangladesh.

They are all members of the public-private partnership, Agricultural
Biotechnology Support Project II, led by Cornell University of the US. It
seeks to make the transgenic crop accessible to a wider section of
farmers in this region. The coordinator for the project in India is
Sathguru Management Consultants Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad, which is Cornell's
representative in India. The University of Philippines will handle the
implementation in the South-East Asian region.

Addressing newspersons, on a tour of the project sites organised by
Sathguru, Mr K. Vijayarghavan, its Director, said through the
partnership, the transgenic eggplant developed for different regions
would be available to farmers at an affordable cost. The public
institutions would aim at cost recovery, while the private players will
price it on a benefit-sharing basis. More than 30 members were partners
in the project, under which work is on in 10 transgenic crops across the

The eggplant was selected based on extensive consultation, which
identified that this crop would benefit several farmers in the region --
over 25 million.

Dr Usha Barwale Zehr, Joint Director of Research, Mahyco, said in India
alone, over 5.1 lakh hectares were under brinjal cultivation and the
annual production was estimated at about 8.2 million tonnes. The fruit
and shoot borer, an insect pest, affects over 50-70 per cent of the crop
even after continuous insecticide application.

Using transgenic technology will prevent such wastage and increase
marketable yield. Apart from the varieties under development by the
public sector institutions, Mahyco itself is developing four transgenic
hybrid brinjal varieties.

There would be enough varieties and hybrids to cover most of the brinjal-
growing regions in India, she said.

The limited trials, in its second year now, and statutory safety tests
had been completed. Once the appropriate clearances were received, they
would be able to go in for large-scale trials, which would be followed by
commercial sales. Work on the crop started in 2000, she said.

While the benefit to the public institutions is obvious, what value does
Mahyco derive from this partnership?

Mr Raju Barwale, Managing Director, Mahyco, said it was in the wider
reach of the technology and the increased level of awareness of
biotechnology and transgenic crops. This would lead to increased
acceptability if more farmers directly experience the benefits of the

The company was targeting release by late 2006 or in 2007, once the
authorities gave the approvals. The tests were positive and there was a
basis for optimism, he said.

                                 PART V
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TITLE:  GM brinjals in Indian kitchens soon
DATE:   15 Nov 2005

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GM brinjals in Indian kitchens soon

Coimbatore | Genetically modified brinjals for your bhartha and bagara
baingan! In less than two years, the GM version of the ubiquitous
brinjal, or aubergine or eggplant, call it what you will, may enter
Indian kitchens after clearing environment and health safety standards.

"Once we have cleared the required trials and safety parameters, we are
looking at 2006-07 for commercial release of the new genetically modified
eggplant," said Raju Barwale, managing director of Maharashtra Hybrid
Seed Company (Mahyaco).

"The large-scale trials can be completed by next yearend before going to
the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for commercial release.
The economic advantage data will also be generated within the next six to
eight months," Barwale said at an interaction in this Tamil Nadu town for
media from all countries participating in the ongoing field trials.

Grown year round, a significantly large percentage of the brinjal crop is
damaged due to high infestation of fruit and shoot borer.

Even the undamaged crop that reaches dining rooms is contaminated by
repeated use of toxic pesticides, say leading agriculture scientists
engaged in the development of the transgenic crop.

Partnering the effort are universities and research bodies in India,
Philippines, Bangladesh and the US based Monsanto, which is a seed
partner in Mahyco.

The public-private partnership is the mode adopted to develop and
commercialise bio-engineered crops to complement traditional and organic
agriculture approaches.

The project, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), is
funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by
Cornell University. The consortium is managed in South Asia by Sathguru
Management Consultants and in Southeast Asia by the University of Philippines.

The nine transgenic varieties of eggplant currently under second year of
field trials in different regions of the country have all been developed
using biogenetic material from Monsanto, which has licensed it to the
consortium partners.

"Mahyco is currently carrying out field trials in several regions in
India. Comprehensive food and feed safety studies on animals like cows,
goats, chicken and fish are being carried out in accordance with the
national regulatory guidelines," said K. Vijayaraghavan, director of Sathguru.

"The national regulators have asked for additional testing of alkaloids,"
he said.

Besides eggplant, the ABSPII consortium comprising 30 partners from Asia,
Africa and America is also exploring the transgenic route for development
of drought and salt tolerant rice, late blight resistant potato, ringspot
virus resistant papaya, multiple virus resistant tomato, black sigatoka
and nematode resistant banana among others.

Work is also on in India for developing tobacco streak virus resistant
sunflower and groundnut, both of which are sources of edible oil.

"Differing from commercial technology transfer, the collaborative
knowledge sharing is the essence of the partnership in which every
partner owns responsibility for the product it will deliver to farmers
for commercial cultivation," said Vijayaraghavan.

In the case of the eggplant, the biogenetic material being used is cry1Ac
protein, which has already been established to control bollworm in the
transgenic or Bt cotton, the only genetically modified crop being
cultivated in India for the last couple of years.

In a departure from the past when not much was made public about the
field trials of Bt cotton, the new effort is seeing partners like Tamil
Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) taking all stakeholders on board in an
effort to address fears and share knowledge.

"The farmers will find more acceptability with the involvement of the
universities and the public sector," said C. Ramasamy, professor of TNAU.

"We can expect significantly good acceptance from farmers who would be
spared the cost of repeated spraying of pesticides to protect the brinjal
crops. The yield loss due to fruit and shoot borers in India alone is
estimated to be about $221 million," he said.

The scientists said the disbursement of certified seeds would be done
through the university partners and authorised channels in India.


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