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Essay on Biotechnology and Indian Agriculture

The strategic integration of biotechnology tools into India agricultural systems can revolutionise Indian farming and usher in a new era. Genetic engineering is clearly the most revolutionary tool to impact agricultural research since the discovery of genetics by Mendel. Prior to genetic engineering, the exchange of DNA material was possible only between individual organisms of the same species.

With the advent of genetic engineering in 1972, scientists have been able to identify specific genes associated with desirable traits in one organism. For example, a gene from bacteria, virus or animals may be transferred into plants to produce genetically modified plants having changed characteristics. This method therefore, allows mixing of the genetic material from species that cannot otherwise, breed naturally.

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Genetic engineering can be vital for an agrarian country like India. It can help in minimizing the crop damage through disease and pest resistant varieties, reducing the use of chemicals, enhancing stress tolerance in crop plants, thus permitting productive farming on unproductive lands, etc. One could even extend the growing season of crops and minimize losses due to environmental factors on the one hand and increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, on the other, thus minimizing losses due to food spoilage.

We can expand the market vista and improve food quality. Biotechnology can also produce plants that possess healthy fats and oils, possess increased nutritive value, and create a whole range of higher value feeds. Biotechnology has even the power of producing biodegradable plastics, edible vaccines, etc.

It is only through the blending of the ‘gene revolution’ with our experience in the ‘green revolution’ that we can reach our goal of‘evergreen revolution’ and also ‘nutritional revolution’. The advantage of the gene revolution is that it is relatively scale neutral, benefiting big and small fanners alike, it is also environment friendly. Thus, it can be of great help to the smallest farmer with limited resources in increasing farm productivity through the availability of improved but powerful seed. It can also reduce a farmer’s dependency on chemical inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers.

Modern biotechnology offers unlimited opportunity for enhancing genetic potential of crops and other commodities, management of biotic and abiotic stresses, bio-remediation and organic recycling. India is one of the main centres of agricultural biodiversity and its gene richness can greatly complement the developments in modern biotechnology. Likewise, new developments in GIS, remote sensing, and crop modelling, provide new opportunities for integrated management of natural resources.

The revolution in informatics provides opportunities for sharing latest information for research and planning in a highly organized and efficient manner. With the globalization of economy, the opportunities for value addition and post harvest management are also immense. With clever blending of technologies, the India farmer can usher in new era of confidence and performance.

Biotechnology in India:

In 1982, GOI has setup an official agency, National Biotechnology Board which functions under the Department of Science & Technology. In the year 1986 NBTB was replaced by a full fledged department, Department of Biotechnology under the ministry of S & T. This department is responsible for planning promotion and co-ordination of various activities of biotechnology in the country.

Biotechnology Information Centres in India:

1. Genetic Engineering:

i. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

ii. Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai

iii. Bose Institute, Kolkata

iv. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

v. Indian Institute of Biotechnology, Bangalore.

2. Animal Cell Culture and Virology:

i. Poona University, Pune

3. Plant Tissue Culture, Photosynthesis and Plant Molecular Biology:

i. Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi

4. Oncogenes, Reproduction Physiology, Cell Transformation, Nucleic Acid and Protein Sequences:

i. Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad

5. Immunology:

i. National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi

6. Enzyme Engineering, Immobilised Biocatalyst, Microbial Fermentation and Bio­process Engineering:

i. Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh

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