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Basic scientific concepts of biotechnology: historical perspective and development of modern biotechnology


Basic scientific concepts of biotechnology: historical perspective and development of modern biotechnology Vibha Dhawan Vice Chancellor TERI School of Advanced Studies – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Basic scientific concepts of biotechnology: historical perspective and development of modern biotechnology

Basic scientific concepts of biotechnology
historical perspective and development of modern
  • Vibha Dhawan
  • Vice Chancellor
  • TERI School of Advanced Studies
  • 6th February 2005

Food problems have haunted mankind since time
  • Expanding the cultivated area
  • Technological Breakthroughs

  • By mid 1960s, hunger and malnutrition were
    widespread, especially in Asia

  • 1967 Report of the US Presidents Science
    Advisory Committee concluded that the scale,
    severity and duration of the world food problem
    are so great that a massive, long-range,
    innovative effort unprecedented in human
    history will be required to master it

  • The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations took the
    lead in establishing an international agriculture
    research system to help, transfer and adapt
    scientific advances to the conditions in
    developing countries
  • The first investments were in rice and wheat

  • The breeding of improved varieties, combined with
    the expanded use of fertilizers, other chemical
    inputs and irrigation, led to dramatic yield
    increases in Asia and Latin America, beginning in
    the late 1960s

Technological Breakthroughs
  • Modern plant breeding, improved agronomy,
    development of inorganic fertilizers pesticides
    and expansion of irrigated areas helped in
    increasing crop productivity.

Example Wheat It took nearly 1,000 years for
wheat yields to increase from 0.5 to 2 metric
tonnes per hectare, but only 40 years to climb
from 2 to 6 metric tonnes per hectare
Green Revolution Blessing or curse
  • Focus on a few grain crops wheat, rice, maize
  • High inputs fertilizers, pesticides
  • High resource farmers irrigated lands
  • Crop yield the major goal

Salient Features of Green Revolution
  • Higher yields
  • More responsive to plant nutrients
  • Shorter and stiffer straw
  • Early maturity
  • Resistance to major pests and diseases

Social Impacts
  • Increased farm income
  • Stimulation of rural non-farm economy
  • Expansion of marketing services
  • Real per capita income almost doubled in Asia
    and poverty declined from nearly three out of
    every five Asians in 1975 to less than one in
    three by 1995
  • The absolute number of poor people declined from
    1.15 billion in 1975 to 825 million in 1995
    despite a 60 increase in population

Problems associated with the Green Revolution
  • Environmental degradation
  • Increased income inequality
  • Inequitable asset distribution
  • Decline in nutritional security

Some of the criticisms are valid and are still
need to be addressed
Green Revolution Criticism
  • Excessive and inappropriate use of fertilizers
    and pesticides has polluted waterways, poisoned
    agricultural workers and killed beneficial
    insects and other wildlife
  • Irrigation practices have led to salt build-up
    and thus abandonment of faming lands
  • Ground water levels are retreating
  • Heavy dependence on few major cereal varieties
    has led to loss of biodiversity on farms

  • Some of these outcomes were inevitable as
    millions of farmers began to use modern inputs
    for the first time but inadequate extension and
    training and absence of effective regulation of
    water quality, input pricing and subsidy policies
    made modern inputs too cheap and encouraged
    excessive use creating negative environmental

  • Today there is a tendency to overstate the
    problem and to ignore the appropriate
    counterfactual situation

What would have been the magnitude of hunger and
poverty without the yield increases of the Green
Revolution and with the same population growth?
  • Often ignored is the positive impact of higher
    yields that saved huge areas of forests and
    environmentally fragile lands that would have
    otherwise be needed for farming

Stark Realities..
  • 800 million people cannot afford two course of
  • About 30,000 people, half of them children, die
    every day due to hunger and malnutrition
  • Nearly 1.2 billion people live on less than a
    dollar a day

In the next 50 years, mankind will consume as
much food as we have consumed since the
beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago -
Clive James
Problems with Agriculture in Developing Countries
  • Green Revolution fatigue
  • Low productivity
  • Small holdings
  • Subsistence
  • Mercy of monsoon
  • Limited water and land
  • Disease, pests, drought, weeds
  • Storage and transportation
  • Conventional plant improvement methods are
    reaching their limits
  • Agricultural growth is now 1 compared to 3 in

Thus, technology must evolve and percolate to
the end-user at a much faster paceWe must aim
at an agricultural growth of 4 per year, if
India has to achieve its ambition of overall
economic growth rate of over 8 per
annum (Prime Ministers Inaugural Speech at
National Conference on Krishi Vigyan Kendras in
New Delhi. October 27, 2005)
The Prime Minister reemphasized in the India
Economic Summit 2005 (23rd November
2005)Though the Xth Plan assumed a growth rate
of 4 for agricultural production, the reality
was different. the first 3 years we have not
been able to ensure 1.5 rate of growth. We are
focusing on technological breakthroughs for
scaling up yields.
Modern genetic modification
  • Inserting one or few genes to achieve desired
  • Transfer of genes into crop plants
  • Relatively precise and predictable
  • Allows flexibility

Biotechnology can add value to global agriculture!
  • Environmental impact - decreased use of
  • Reduced losses from pests and diseases
  • Improved nutritional efficiency
  • Improved productivity
  • Post harvest quality - prolong shelf life of
    fruits, vegetables and flowers
  • Stress tolerance - drought, acidity, salinity,

Why Biotechnology?
  • Knowledge-based approach
  • Offers unique solutions
  • Integrates technology delivery
  • Scale-neutral
  • Does not displace traditional methods
  • Environment-friendly
  • Portable - across crops
  • Versatile - impact on all facets of food chain
    from producers to consumers

How biotechnology can help developing countries
and resource-poor farmers?
  • Improve food and nutritional security
  • Enhance production efficiency
  • Promote sustainable agriculture
  • Reduce environmental impact
  • Empower the rural sector through income
    generation reduce economic inequality
  • Reduce crop damage food loss

Constraints to biotechnology development and
assimilation in developing countries
  • Finance
  • Technical capability
  • Infrastructure
  • Ambivalent policies
  • Trade issues
  • Biosafety regulation
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Public perception

  • All Biotechnologies does not mean GM Traditional
    Biotechnologies offers no resistance, yet not
    commercialised in developing countries such as
    Tissue Culture, Biopesticides, Biofertilizers

Traditional Biotechnologies Gap Analysis
  • Awareness about the potential benefits
  • Extension mechanism
  • Microfinancing

Technologies Micropropagation
  • Micropropagation
  • Micropropagation is a technique of regenerating
    clonally uniform plants under aseptic conditions

Stages of Micropropagation
Micropropagation Technology Park (MTP)
Technologies Micropropagation (Contd)
Inoculation Room at TERIs MTP
Growth Room at TERIs MTP
Major Objectives
Micropropagation Technology Park
(MTP) (Established in 1991 through DBT support)
  • Large-scale multiplication of superior clones of
    various species using tissue culture
  • Mass propagation of species that are difficult to
    regenerate by conventional methods
  • Transfer of proven technologies to the industry/
  • Impart training for large-scale production of
    plants by tissue culture
  • To serve as a technology resource centre for
    up-coming units

Two Pronged Approach
Bioprospecting of Plant Diversity for Biomolecules
A) With unknown active molecules Prospecting of
plant diversity for new active molecules via
bioassay mediated isolation of plant extracts
B) With known active molecules e.g. Azadirachta
indica, Glycerrhiza glabra, Withania
etc. Prospecting of diversity for active
ingredient in different plant varieties /

Mycorrhizal Research
  • Consortium product of AM and EM
  • Hyphal fusion based product
  • Cocktail of beneficial organisms
  • Specific product for wheat, pulse, rice rotation
  • Mycorrhiza for Organic farming and its package of
    practices for various plants

Sugarcane with various treatments for pest and
nutrient management
Crop nursery from the sugarcane setts of Tissue
Cultured plants
Our Experiences
  • Demonstration and capacity building to absorb new
    technologies must be developed

Questions to Ponder
  • Are we making adequate research investments?
  • Do we have long term research policies?
  • Implications of IPR on agriculture in developing
  • Do we need to invest on gene discovery or work on
    borrowed genes?
  • Are our strategies geared up to meet global

The challenge before us is to produce nutritious
food for all at affordable price
  • Every citizen of this planet has the right to
    have enough nutritious food at an affordable
    price to achieve this goal, technologies must
    be developed/ upgraded and made available to
    every practicing farmer.