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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Emerging issues in Agri-Biotechnology in India

The ever increasing population, limited cultivatable land and increasing demand for alternative energy sources has led to increasing application of the biotechnology techniques in the Indian agricultural arena. Various research institutes and departments of Government of India and other state governments are directing their efforts on exploring and exploiting newer technologies for enhancing farm production and increasing the productivity.

With the approval of Bt-cotton for commercial cultivation in April 2002, more and more seed companies are seeking technologies like genetic modification for insect protection. There is also an increasing use of molecular markers in crop breeding.

With the enactment of the Plant Breeder's rights and Farmer's rights bill, there is a growing demand for molecular fingerprinting of germ plasm lines to assert ones ownership of crop varieties and hybrids. There is a growing realization that some of these new technologies will lead to future growth in crop productivity and quality. The ability to develop or source these technologies will determine the future leaders of the agricultural industry in this country.

Key concerns and issues

Inordinate delays in the regulatory system, as it exists today.

Absence of adequate IP protection and consequent uncertainties about value capture.

Misgivings and apprehensions amongst farmers and policy makers about various application of biotechnology in the field.

Lack of political consensus on various issues.

Addressing these key issues

Industry should initiate a debate on these issues and bring these to the attention of law makers and other stakeholders. There is also a need to educate our farmers and agriculture scientists alike about the impending benefits of successful exploitation of newer technology in farming.

Trends foreseen

There is a large section of farmers, the ultimate consumers of this technology in this country who have seen the benefits and have started demanding agri-biotech products like Bt cotton. However, the industry today is not able to meet this demand as there are very few players in this area. Sensing this opportunity, some unscrupulous elements have made a business of spurious and fake products in the name of some of these new technologies. In the short run, this tendency may affect the public's confidence in these new technologies, if adequate counter measures are not adopted. However, in the long run, agri-biotech is going to positively impact Indian agriculture more and more as the benefits are very real.

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