Sunday, January 30, 2011


Hunger abatment amongst poor people, where ever they live, is a major pre-requisite if world peace is to be ensured. This realization is slowly dawning on many of the rich nations and substantial aid money is being promised to strengthen the food production systems in many impoverished countries in Africa and Asia. It is true that supplying food to the needy ones from the surplus available in some of the rich countries does help to bring solace to millions starved of foods qualitatively and quantitatively but this cannot be a long term solution. New seed technologies ans sustainable food production only can enable the poor countries to attain self-sufficiency to any meaningful extent. There is a devious attempt to hook aid receiving countries on to the GM crop technology which can never be a sustaining proposition. Recent announcement by the UK to fund research in biotechnology area for solving world's food problem with financial support by an American private foundation has roped in India also to lend some respectability to their project labeled as a "cooperative" endeavor. It is not clear as to the institutions involved as the promoters claim it as a capacity building exercise as if such capacities do not exist in India. As the emphasis is on biotechnlogy, it will not be wrong to assume that focus will be on GM technology and how far this will be acceptable to the consumers is another matter.

"The new initiative will place particular emphasis on improving the sustainable production of staple food crops across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These include cassava, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat. By placing significant emphasis on these crops the initiative partners expect to be able to improve food security and quality of life for the largest possible number of people. The initiative also aims to maximise the impact of the research funded by supporting a more comprehensive approach to improving productivity and yield, for example by tackling crop resistance to drought or flood. By funding international researchers tackling problems across different countries and regions promising research from one country can easily be shared and tested more widely in different regions and conditions to provide the widest possible benefit. Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "Global society faces huge challenges in the coming years and securing safe, affordable and nutritious food for everyone is one of the biggest. Scientists and organisations across the world have the capabilities and expertise to make a real difference in meeting the global food security challenge but no single organisation or country can do this on its own. By working together and by coordinating our activity we can maximise the impact of our investment and of international science. The joint programme that we are announcing today is a groundbreaking example of how we can do so." Each project funded under the initiative will include partners from the UK and a developing nation. This approach, used by BBSRC and DFID in previous programmes, aims to build scientific capacity in developing countries, with the aim of developing research teams and projects that tackle other local scientific challenges".

As far as India is concerned capability already exists in the country as proven by the Green Revolution achieved decades ago making the country self-sufficient and if the aim is to 'train' personnel from poorer countries in technologies that will increase the yield of staple crops, the project may be relevant. On th other hand if it is intended to help India achieve any break-through in grain production, sufficient expertise as well as funds are already available in India.


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