ICRISAT develops Bt wheat: Commercial release in next four years
Hyderabad, June 27: The International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics has launched genetic engineering facility at its campus here to produce Bt food crops. The first GM groundnut is likely to hit the market in next four years. Incidentally, ICRISAT is the first public-funded research organisation to take up work on development of transgenic food crops in the country. Bt technology has thus far largely been the domain of private and multinational seed companies. Paradoxically, the Central government, which has withheld clearance of Bt brinjal, is funding research on GM crops at ICRISAT through its Department of Biotechnology and Indian Council of Agricultural Research. A specialised research lab, Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops, has been set up on the ICRISAT campus for the purpose. Thus far, only Bt cotton is available for commercial use in the country, though Bt brinjal and Bt okhra have already been developed. Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops chief Dr Kiran K Sharma said genetically modified groundnut that is resistant to drought will be ready for use in about four years from now. ICRISAT has developed transgenic groundnut events to confer resistance to major viruses for which durable resistance is not available in the germplasm. "This includes developing pathogen-derived resistance by using the viral coat protein as well as RNA silencing technologies," he said. According to him, biosafety studies are underway and will later undergo field trials with selected events. ICRISAT director-general Dr William Dar said there's increasing need of use of modern technology to alleviate poverty and hunger. "About one billion poor and hungry people live in the world today. The human population will touch 9.25 billion by 2050, which means increase in current food production by 75 per cent. We need to tap the power of genetic engineering," he pointed out. Dr Clive James of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- Biotech said there's a need for a balance between conventional and GM technology to boost food grain output. ICRISAT on Monday organised a colloquium on biotechnology for journalists from Asia and the Pacific here.