Wednesday, 30 December 2015

National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020

The National Biotechnology Development Strategy -2015-2020 was unveiled by the Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi today. The Strategy aims to establish India as a world-class bio-manufacturing hub. It intends to launch a major mission, backed with significant investments, for the creation of new biotech products, create a strong infrastructure for R&D and commercialization, and empower India’s human resources scientifically and technologically.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan releasing the National Biotechnology Development Strategy -2015-2020  

• Provide impetus to utilising the knowledge and tools to the advantage of Humanity
• Launch a major well directed mission backed with significant investment for generation of new Biotech   Products
• Empower scientifically and technologically India’s incomparable Human Resource
• Create a strong Infrastructure for R&D and Commercialisation
• Establish India as a world class Bio-manufacturing Hub

Key Elements 

• Building a Skilled Workforce and Leadership
• Revitalizing the knowledge environment at par with the growing bio-economy
• Enhance Research opportunities in basic, disciplinary and inter-disciplinary sciences
• Encourage use-inspired discovery research
• Focus on biotechnology tools for inclusive development
• Nurturing innovation, translational capacity and entrepreneurship
• Ensuring a transparent, efficient and globally best Regulatory system and communication strategy
• Biotechnology cooperation- Fostering global and national alliances
• Strengthen Institutional Capacity with redesigned governance models
• Create a matrix of measurement of processes as well as outcome

• Making India ready to meet the challenge of achieving US$100bn by 2025
• Launching Four Major Missions – Healthcare, Food and Nutrition, Clean Energy and Education
• Creating a Technology Development and Translation network across the country with global partnership-5 new clusters, 40 Biotech incubators, 150 TTOs, 20 Bio-connect centres
• Strategic and focussed investment in building the Human Capital by creating a Life Sciences and Biotechnology Education Council

Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Monday, 28 December 2015

Eighth National Steering Committee on Climate Change Approves Projects from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists
Shri Ashok Lavasa, Secretary, MoEF & CC
The eighth National Steering Committee on Climate Change (NSCCC) approved four projects from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab and also considered one project submitted by Government of Madhya Pradesh, at a meeting held here today. The agenda of the meeting was to consider the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) submitted by Government of Tamil Nadu and Government of Kerala for funding under the National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC) and demonstration projects submitted by Government of Madhya Pradesh, Government of Punjab and Government of Tamil Nadu under Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP).
Management and Rehabilitation of Coastal Habitats and Biodiversity for Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainable Livelihood in Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu
The total cost of the project will be Rs. 24.74 crore and will cover 23 coastal villages of Tuticorin district. The 4-year project has five broad objectives: conduct baseline vulnerability studies, coral rehabilitation, sea grass rehabilitation, deployment of 6,000 Artificial Reef (AR) modules, and eco-development activities in the project villages. The project will help in developing the much needed “Comprehensive Plan or Scheme for Coral and Sea Grass Restoration”. 
It will augment the database on coral ecosystem, species diversity, fish catch/effort, anthropogenic pressure, and migration & survival rate. The project activities will lead to economic empowerment of 15 SHGs per village and benefit about 6,900 women. The project will create a platform for knowledge development through regular meeting amongst departments like fisheries, forest, TNSCCC, GOMBRT, IIT, Chennai, Anna University and facilitate planning of roadmap for future conservation efforts. It is estimated that the cumulative potential for revenue generation per annum is about Rs. 1.84 crore for fisherman community and Rs. 1.03 crore for the Women Self Help Groups (SHGs). The Department of Environment and State Steering Committee of Tamil Nadu will be responsible for facilitating overall project implementation.

Promotion of Integrated Farming System of Kaipad and Pokkali in Coastal Wetlands of Kerala 
The total cost of the project Rs. 33.73 crore envisions integrated farming methods, as climate smart practices to enhance resilience of aquaculture communities to climate change especially sea-level rise that results in severe intrusion of salinity. 
The proposed area for the 4-year project is 600 hectares (300 hectares in Kannur District and 300 hectares in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha districts) has as its broad objectives - providing the main infrastructure facility of strong outer ‘bunds’ with sufficient height; use of tall varieties of salt tolerant paddy; integrating fishery to enhance paddy cultivation and maximize the inland fish production through sustainable aquaculture. The Agency for Development of Aquaculture (ADAK), Department of Fisheries, Government of Kerala, will be the Executing Entity for the project. The project will help simultaneous cultivation of rice and shrimp / fish in low-lying wetlands where there were no cultivation earlier. It will also improve the quality of life for local farmers through higher disposable incomes. It will improve access to fresh water, as peripheral ‘bunds’ will prevent seepage of sea water to fresh water sources, capacity building of farmers and will reduce displacement of labourers from nearby areas and provide employment to women. It will also check carbon emission, as wetlands have good potential to act as carbon sink. It is estimated that the cumulative potential for total annual revenue is about Rs. 23.25 crore under this project.

Under Climate Change Action Programme, the Committee considered three projects on

Building Resilience through Integrated Farming Systems for Enhancing Livelihood Security” submitted by Government of Madhya Pradesh, 

Technological adaptation for gainful utilisation of paddy straw (presently burnt on-site) as fuel to replace fossil fuels” submitted by Government of Punjab 

Coastal habitat rehabilitation for climate change adaptation in Gulf of Mannar, South-Eastern India: Improving ecosystem services and Fisherman livelihood” by Government of Tamil Nadu

The committee approved the projects from Government of Punjab and Government of Tamil Nadu at an estimated cost of Rs. 3.54 crore and Rs. 67 lakh respectively. The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Shri Ashok Lavasa, Secretary Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
Government has established the National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC) with a budget provision of Rs.350 crores for the year 2015-16 and 2016-17, with an estimated requirement of Rs.181.5 crores for financial year 2017-18. The objective of the fund is to assist State and Union Territories that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting the cost of adaptation. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has been appointed as National Implementing Entity (NIE) responsible for implementation of adaptation projects under the (NAFCC).
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Ranchi University, Ranchi, Jharkhand to host 39th Indian Botanical Conference - 2016

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists
Executive Council of Indian Botanical Society has accepted the invitation to host 39th Indian Botanical Conference at Ranchi University, Ranchi, Jharkhand. This was informed by Dr Jyoti Kumar, organizing secretary of 39th Indian Botanical Conference. While speaking to Indian Botanists, Dr Kumar expressed his pleasure and mentioned to do his best to host the conference successfully. The date will be fixed in coordination of the executive council of the society and authorities of the host university accordingly the first circular will be communicated shortly, said Dr Kumar. 

Indian Botanical Society founded in 1920 is a society for botanists of India. The Society's activities include lectures, symposia, field excursions, field projects and an annual society meeting for exchange of information between botanists working in different areas. Indian Botanical Society holds its Annual session in any University of the country where Plant Scientists/ Botanists/ present their views on recent advances in the subject. 38th conference of Indian Botanical Society was held during October 26-28, 2015 at Department of Botany, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Environment Ministry Announces Launching of Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has announced the launching of Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships in the name of Late Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam on his 85th birthday. The Post Doctoral Fellowship programme of the Ministry is targeted towards young scientists working in the area of environment and ecology in the country. The target group of this programme are young scientists who have completed their PhD, or are about to complete their PhD in areas related to environment and ecology and possess a good, academic record. The applicants should preferably be below the age of 35 years. The tenure of the fellowship is for a period of three years and the fellowship award includes a monthly fellowship, equivalent to that of a Research Associate, together with an annual research contingency grant of Rs. 1.5 lakh. The Post-Doctoral fellow will also be entitled to House Rent Allowance and other benefits as per the Ministry’s guidelines applicable for Research Associateship.

The Ministry proposes to constitute a Committee of Experts headed by Dr. R.A Mashelkar for selection of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Post-Doctoral Research Fellows. The advertisement, calling for applications for the fellowship programme will be brought out by the Ministry shortly and the guidelines for the programme will be uploaded on the Ministry’s website. The main focus of the new fellowship programme and also the ongoing National Environmental Sciences Fellows Programme is to nurture young scientists working in the areas related to environment and ecology for undertaking good quality scientific research under the mentorship of established scientists of the country.

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the people’s President, had an abiding trust and faith on the abilities of the youth of the country to transform India into a global power. He was also firmly convinced that science and technology shall offer solutions to the pressing challenges facing the country, including those of environmental protection and sustainable development. Dr. Kalam had on various occasions, fervently stood for the cause of protection of environment and conservation, so that future generations can have a better tomorrow. 
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bioinformatics Centre Inaugurated at Tripura University

The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurating the Bioinformatics Centre, at Tripura University, Agartala on September 21, 2015.  

The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressing at the inauguration on the Bioinformatics Centre, at Tripura University, Agartala on September 21, 2015.

Courtesy: Press Information Bureau, India

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Six Emerging Topics Identified for Detailed Group Discussions During Rabi Conference 2015 on 22nd-23rd September

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare organizes Rabi and Kharif Conferences every year with a view to review performance of the preceding season and to prepare strategies for the coming season. In order to review the production performance of Kharif-2015 season, formulate strategies for crop production for ensuing Rabi 2015-16 season, take stock of inputs to ensure timely supply and to create awareness of new technologies & innovations in crop production and allied sectors, a National Conference on Agriculture for Rabi Campaign 2015-16 is being organized on 22nd and 23rd September, 2015 at the National Agriculture Science Center, ICAR Pusa Complex, New Delhi.

The Agriculture Production Commissioner / Principal Secretary / Secretary of Agriculture & Horticulture / Commissioner / Director of Agriculture / Horticulture from all the States / Union Territories; Scientists from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); officers from the Department of Fertilizer (Government of India); Refinance institutions like National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD); officers of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare will participate in the conference. During the conference key presentations on performance of crop production during Kharif 2015 and strategies / prospects for Rabi 2015-16; and on focused topics highlighting innovative schemes related to agriculture & horticulture as also new research technologies would be made for providing exposure to the States.

The Conference would be inaugurated by the Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh; Hon’ble Ministers of State, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan and Shri M.K. Kundariya will grace the occasion. They will all be addressing the administrators, technocrats, agricultural scientists, representatives of various central departments / autonomous bodies and media persons invited to this important event. Shri Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare under whose leadership and guidance the Rabi Conference is being organized will be present through the two day sessions and will address at the inauguration. 

 Six emerging topics identified for detailed group discussions amongst participating states under the guidance of DAC & FW on the first day of the conference are as under:

1. Promoting pulses and oilseeds in rice fallows

2. Promoting organic farming through 'Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)'
3. Enhancing area under irrigation and achieving water use efficiency through 'Pardhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana (PMKSY)'

4. Creating a nationally integrated market through 'National Agricultural Market'

5. Agrarian crisis and agricultural crisis – Issues and solutions

6. Promotion Of Horticulture in the country

Recommendations of the groups following the discussions will be further fine tuned in consultation with the States on the second day of the conference & final outputs, shared by the department with all the concerned.

The Rabi season is an important as Kharif in ensuring the nation’s food security. The normal area that is cultivated in Rabi is 61.43 million ha. The principle crops are wheat, other cereals like barley, rabi jowar, rabi maize, pulses like bengal gram, oilseeds like linseed, rape seed & mustard, safflower and commercial crops like tobbaco. Rabi cropping system contributes to the country’s food grains output to an extent of about 51% on an average. The department’s strategy is to maximize the rabi output against the backdrop of rainfall deficit in some parts of the country. 

Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

An Overview of Grouping of Spices

P. Chhetri*, A.K. Vijayan, S.K. Bhat, B.A. Gudade and S.S. Bora
Indian Cardamom Research Institute,
Regional Research Station, Spices Board,
Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim-737102


Spices grouping has a broad application prospective in agriculture and medicine and is especially significant to the biology diversity research. As spices are vitally important in medicinal value, it is more important to identify and classify them accurately. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of different system of spices classification.
Keywords: Basis, Classification, Spices


The term spices applies to natural plant or vegetable products or mixtures in whole or ground form, which are used for imparting flavor, aroma and pungency to the food items. Spices are also being used within the country for flavoring foods and in medicines, pharmaceutical, perfumery, cosmetics and several other industries.

It is well known that plants play a crucial role in preserving earth’s ecology and environment by maintaining a healthy atmosphere and providing sustenance and shelter to innumerable insects and animal species. In addition plant has plenty of use in food stuff, botany and many other industries (Metre and Ghorpade, 2013). In the same way spices carry significant information for the development of human society. Hence precise identification of the respective spices is vital.

India is known the world over ‘The Home of Spices’. India has a glorious past, pleasant present and a bright future with respect to production and export of spices. According to International organization for standardization (ISO) there are about 109 spices and India produce as a many as 75 in its various agro climatic regions ( Spices may comprise different plant components or parts such as floral parts (cloves, saffron etc.) or fruits (cardamom, chillies etc.) or berries (all spice black pepper, juniper etc.) or seeds (aniseed, caraway, celery, coriander) or rhizomes (ginger, turmeric etc) or root (angelica, horse radish, lovage etc.) or leaves (bay leaves, mints, marjoram, tejpat etc.) or kernel (nutmeg etc.) or aril (mace), or bark (cinnamon, cassia etc.) or bulbs (garlic, onion etc.) or other part of spices plants (

Different basis of spices classification

A. On the basis of cotyledons

1. Dicotyledoneae: Chilli, paprika, red pepper, sesame, camomile, chicory, tarragon, cubeba, long pepper, pepper, mace, nutmeg, bay leaf, cassia, cinnamon, star-anise, mustard, wasabi, allspice, clove, anise, caraway, celery, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley
2. Monocotyledoneae: Garlic, onion, saffron, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, vanilla.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

B. On the basis of family

1. Zingiberaceae: Large cardamom, small cardamom, ginger, turmeric, greater galanga
2. Solanaceae: Chilli
3. Piperaceae: Pepper, pepper long
4. Apiaceae: Coriander, cumin, fennel, celery, aniseed, ajowan, caraway, dill, garlic, parsely, asafoetida, lovage
5. Fabaceae: Fenugreek
6. Lauraceae: Cinnamon, cassia, tejpat, bay leaf
7. Rutaceae: Curry leaf
8. Clusiaceae: Kokam, camboge.
9. Lamiaceae: Mint, hyssop, marjoram, basil, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, oregano.
10. Brassicaceae: Mustard, horse radish.
11. Punicaceae: Pomegranate.
12. Iridaceae: Saffron.
13. Orchidaceae: Vanilla.
14. Llliciaceae: Star Anise.
15. Araceae: Sweet flag.
16. Capparidaceae: Caper.
17. Myrtaceae: Clove, allspice.
18. Myristicaceae: Nutmeg, mace.
19.Papaveraceae: Poppy seed.
20. Cupressaceae: Juniper berry.
21. Asteraceae: Tarragon.
22. Caesalpiniaceae: Tamarid.

C. On the basis of Economic importance

1. Major spice: This spice contributes major share to spice trade industry-75-95% of total foreign exchange Ex: Black pepper, chillies, small cardamom, ginger, turmeric
2. Minor spice: Except the above 5 spices all other spices are grouped under minor spices.

D. On the basis of origin & flavour

1. Pungency spice: Pepper, ginger, chillies, mustard, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, onion.
2. Aromatic fruit: Cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, nutmeg.
3. Aromatic bark: Cinnamon & cassia.
4. Phenolic spices: Cloves, allspice.
5.  Coloured spices: Paprika, Saffron, Turmeric.

E. On the basis of degree of taste

1. Hot spices: Capsicum, black and white peppers, ginger, mustard.
2. Mild spices: Paprika, coriander.
3. Aromatic spices: Allspice, cardamom, cassia, cinnamon, clove, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg.
4. Herbs: Basil, bay, dill, leaves, marjoram, tarragon, thyme.
5. Aromatic vegetables: Onion, garlic, celery.

F. On the basis of growth habits

1. Herbs: Ajowan, coriander, cumin, tenet, fenugreek, chillies, parsley
2. Shrubs: Rosemary, chillies (perennial chillies), pomegranate
3. Trees: Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, tamarind, garcinia, Japanese pepper
4. Climbers: Black pepper, tailed pepper, vanilla
5. Perennial herbs/rhizomatous herbs: Cardamom, ginger, turmeric, mango ginger, Japanese ginger, galanga, asafoetida.

G. On the basis of season of growth

1. Annual spices: Spices which complete their life cycle in one growing season are called annuals. Example of this type of spices are coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ajowan and black cumin, aniseed, mustard, chilli.
2. Biennial spices: It needs two growing seasons to complete the life cycle. Examples of biennial spices are onion and parsley.
3. Perennial spices: Perennial spices are those which live for more than two years. Cardamom, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, saffron, clove, nutmeg, asafoetida and cinnamon are example of perennial spices. 

H. On the basis of parts used

1. Leaf: Coriander, Celery, curry leaf, mint, parsley, tejpat, hyssop, bay leaf, lovage, marjoram, basil, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, oregano, tarragon.
2. Bark: Cinnamon, cassia, tejpat
3. Rhizome: Ginger, turmeric, sweet flag, greater galangal.
4. Fruit: Pepper, cardamom, chilli, coriander, cumin, fennel, celery, aniseed, ajowan, caraway, dill, pepper long, star anise, allspice, tamarind.
5. Seed: Cardamom, fenugreek, mustard, pomegranate, nutmeg, poppy seed.
6. Rind: Kokam, camboge
7. Bulb: Garlic
8. Stem: Celery, lovage
9. Pod: Vanilla
10. Stigma: Saffron
11. Root: Horse radish, angelica, lovage
12. Flower bud: Caper
13. Unopened flower bud: Clove
14. Berry: Juniper berry
15. Aril: Mace
16. Oleogum resin from rhizome and thickened root: Asafoetida


1. Vishakha Metre and Jayshree Ghorpade. 2013. An overview of the research on texture based plant leaf classification. International Journal of Computer Science and Network, Vol 2, pp 2277-5420

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Now, Ministry of Environment too Revised the Fellowship for JRF, SRF and RA w.e.f 1.10.2014

 Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

Ministry of  Environment, Forest and Climate Change vide their office memorandum F.No.2/6/2013-RE dated 2nd September, 2015, revised the emoluments of research  personnel working in research and development programmes of the ministry.

The revised emoluments are as follows:

S.No   Designation                              Existing                          Revised

1.       Junior Research Fellow                 Rs.16,000/-                    Rs.25,000/-

2.       Senior Research Fellow                Rs.18,000/-                    Rs.28,000/-

3.       Junior Project Fellow                    Rs.10,000/-                    Rs.16,000/-

4.       Senior Project Fellow                    Rs.12,000/-                   Rs.18,000/-

5.       Research Associate -I                    Rs.22,000/-                  Rs.36,000/-

6.       Research Associate -II                   Rs.23,000                    Rs.38,000/-

7.       Research Associate -I                    Rs.24,000/-                  Rs. 40,000/-

Category of Junior Project Fellow and Senior Project Fellow is applicable only when NET qualified candidates are not available for the project sponsored by the ministry.
House Rent Allowances to all the above categories, as per central government norms.
Research Fellows working in the institutes of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and other institutes or projects sponsored by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will benefit from this increase in fellowship and their long awaiting expectation will be fulfilled.

For more details, see the office memorandum below    


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Agriculture Expert Ramesh Chand appointed as new full time member of NITI Aayog

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Prime Minister has approved the appointment of agriculture expert Prof Ramesh Chand as one of the full-time members in the NITI Aayog. 

He has been a member of a task force on agriculture development under NITI Aayog which is formulating strategies to give a boost to the agriculture sector. Shri Ramesh Chand has also headed a government panel on Minimum Support Price and has been working as Director of National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP) in New Delhi since 2010. Before this Dr. Chand served as ICAR National Professor at NCAP (2006 to 2010).

Dr Ramesh Chand
He did his Ph. D in  Agricultural Economics from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. His Ph.D. thesis, submitted to Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, was selected for Jawaharlal Nehru Award of Indian Council of Agricultural Research in recognition of its outstanding Research contributions.

Dr.Chand possess more than 25 years of experience in research and teaching. He worked in senior academic positions as Professor and Head – Agricultural Economics Unit, at Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University; Professor of Marketing at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Principal Scientist at NCAP; and Acting Director NCAP. 

He has international experience as visiting professor at University of Wollongong in Australia (2000) and Visiting Fellow at Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba Shi, Japan (2003). Dr. Chand has also worked as consultant for FAO, UNDP, ESCAP, and World Bank. 

 Dr. Chand is author of seven books and nearly hundred research papers published in reputed national and international journals. His books are mostly on agriculture policy and development issues. some of his books are: Agricultural Diversification in India: Potential and Prospects in Developed Region; Trade Liberalisation, WTO and Indian Agriculture: Experience and Prospects;  Trade Liberalisation, WTO and Indian Agriculture: Experience and Prospects.

Served in several high level committees set up by government of India including “Steering Committee on Agriculture for XIth Plan” where he drafted the report of the Committee. He has been awarded for  Rafi Ahmad Kidwai Award of ICAR in 2011. 

The National Institute of Transforming India, NITI Aayog under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been set up in place of place of Planning Commission. It has noted economist Aravind Panagariya as its Vice Chairman while economist Bibek Debroy and former DRDO Chief VKSaraswat along with agriculture expert Ramesh Chand now as full time members. 

Inputs: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India and

Monday, 7 September 2015

NBPGR signed an MoA for transfer of DNA-based GMO Screening Technologies

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with M/s DSS Imagetech Private Limited, Delhi, facilitated by Agrinnovate India Limited (AgIn) on 19th August, 2015 for transfer of five DNA-based GMO screening technologies:
  1. Hexaplex PCR targeting six marker genes(aadA, bar, hpt, nptII, pat and uidA)
  2. Duplex TaqMan Real-time PCR targeting P-35S and T-nos
  3. Visual Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP)-based technology targeting eight transgenic elements (P-35S, T-nos, aadA, nptII, uidA, cry1Ac, cry2Ab, cp4-epsps)
  4. Real-time LAMP-based technology targeting eight transgenic elements (P-35S, T-nos, aadA, nptII, uidA, cry1Ac, cry2Ab, cp4-epsps)
  5. TaqMan Real-time PCR-based multi-target system covering 47 targets for screening
Photo courtesy:
How and why DNA based GMO screening technologies are important?

Since decades, controversies are going round the globe with regard to commercialization of GMO. Many countries have approved few crops for commercial production while few others are in process. India has approved experimental field trials for some selected crops. Even though Indian government is committed to promote GM crops,   debate exists on why India does not need GM technology and genetically modified Crops?
Many countries have approved few crops for commercial production while many are in process . Further each nation have their own labelling legislation and trade requirement.
A report, prepared for the department of agriculture, fishries and forestry, government of Australia, summarizes that,
"DNA detection methods are very sensitive, although careful sample preparation is required to extract DNA free from assay inhibition that are naturally present in many food products."
" By varying the DNA sequence, it can be used for general screening to a construct or event specific such as to achieve relative quantification required for compliance with labelling legislation and export of raw produce."

What NBPGR says?
NBPGR informed that, these technologies provide efficient GMO screening tools to check the GM status of a sample irrespective of GM crop/trait, in a rapid/cost-efficient way. Visual and real-time LAMP technologies, when combined with fast DNA extraction method, would facilitate on-site GMO screening in farmers fields and at ports of entry.
The commercialization of these technologies in the form of user-friendly kits would help in building the confidence of consumers, assisting in post-release monitoring of GM crops and solving legal disputes, if arise. 

Input References

Friday, 4 September 2015

Department of Biotechnology, India launched the “DBT-Pan IIT Centre for Bioenergy” for Research on Advance Bio-Fuel Technologies

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India launched the “DBT-Pan IIT Centre for Bioenergy”, a virtual Centre spread across 5 Indian Institutes of Technology; Bombay, Kharagpur, Guwahati, Jodhpur, and Roorkee and coordinated by IIT Bombay signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on September 3, 2015. 
DBT formalizes virtual centre for research on advance bio-fuel technologies like cyanobacterial bio-fuels, bio-fuels from micro-algae, ligno-cellulosic biomass to bio-fuels and also on techno-economic and life cycle analysis. The collaboration initiated in January 2015 and engaged a research team from the five participating institutes consisting of 32 investigators who have been working on bio-energy and will jointly undertake research activities in the said thematic areas.

The first virtual centre for collaborative research will focus on the thematic areas of research in advance bio-fuel technologies.

Though the first virtual centre, it is the fourth centre in Bio-energy research set up by DBT in addition to the DBT-IOC Centre for Advanced Bioenergy Faridabad, DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences, Mumbai and DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy, New Delhi. This is also the largest among the four Bioenergy Centers in terms of investigator participation.

Memorandum of Agreement was signed between DBT and the participating 5 IITs on Sep 3, 2015 in presence of Prof. K VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT. The meeting was attended by Dr.RenuSwarup (Senior Advisor, DBT), Prof. Devang Khakhar (Director, IIT Bombay), Prof. Pradipta Banerji (Director, IITRoorkee), Prof.Gautam Biswas ( Director, IIT Guwahati), Dr.Sangita Kasture (Joint Director, DBT), Prof.Pramod Wangikar (Coordinator of the Centre, IIT Bombay), Prof.V.Narayanan (IIT Jodhpur) and Prof. Saikat Chakraborty (IIT Kharagpur).

The main objective of this centre is to develop advanced technologies in the area of biofuels, paving the way for a sustainable solution to the energy crisis. The Centre also aims to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the bio-energy industry in India.

Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Monday, 31 August 2015

Web Enabled Project Management Information System for Department of Bio Technology Projects

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists
The Union Minister for Science & Technology & Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan launched web enabled project management information system for the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) projects. While inaugurating the DBT Strategy Meet at the NCR Biotech Science Cluster, Faridabad today, he also unveiled a mobile app for the purpose. The application will be available at

Dr. Harsh Vardhan launching the “eProMIS”,  for the DBT projects
These applications will help registration of new investigators, online submission of proposals, Upload project related documents and even Online tracking of projects, reviewing the proposals and intimation of release of grants. 

Screen Shot of website
 This is expected to avoid delay in processing project proposals and access of information to the applicants on their proposals from anywhere. Delays could be avoided as there can be peer review of the projects online. 
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Thursday, 27 August 2015

TRIFED Invites R & D Project Proposals on Minor Forest Products

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED), Ministry of Tribals Affairs, Government of India invites Research and Development (R&D) project proposals on Minor Forest Products (MFPs) which should consist of the development of new /innovative products and/or low cost processing technology or other scientific research work which enhances the value of existing MFPs such as Sal seed & leaf, Mahuwa seed & flower, Lac , Chironjee, Wild Honey, Myrobalan, Tamarind, Gum Karaya, Karanj seed and so on. The outcome of the project should be useful for the tribal communities to undertake the same in their places of habit at so that after the use of derived products, techniques/ application, tribal beneficiaries can get higher benefits in terms of their livelihood & income  generation.

Last Date : 30th September 2015

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Environment Minister Calls for Nominations for India Biodiversity Awards 2016 at Tenth Annual Meeting of State Biodiversity Boards

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The two-day national meeting of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) organised by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) concluded here today. The meet serves as a platform to share the collective experiences on the implementation of the Biodiversity (BD) Act at national, state and local levels and deliberate the way forward to meet the challenges ahead jointly. This is tenth in the series of such a national conclave since the establishment of the NBA in the year 2003.

The wrap-up session was attended by Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar and Mr. Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Representative, UN. The Minister announced the call for nominations for India Biodiversity Awards 2016, which is a collaborative initiative between the Ministry and UNDP-India. The Chairman, NBA informed the Minister about the discussion held on various issues such as formation of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs), documentation of Peoples’ Biodiversity Register (PBRs), implementing Access of Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanisms, notification of threatened species and updating the State Biodiversity Action Plan.

Logo belongs to NBA, India
Recognising the need for continuous engagement and constant dialogue with the SBBs as well as strengthening of institutional framework as an important element in the effective implementation of the BD Act, the meeting reviewed the progress made on the resolutions adopted in the Environment & Forest Ministers’ Conference held in April 2015. It is notable that Telangana and Jammu & Kashmir have notified their state-specific rules as a part of compliance of the resolution made in the April meet.

Many SBBs are proactively taking forward the Access of Benefit Sharing (ABS) Regulations 2014 issued by the National Biodiversity Authority in their respective States. During deliberations, the SBBs like Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal shared their best practices on the above score. The experts who participated in the meeting provided clarity on the queries raised by the SBBs, especially on the formation of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs), sharing of benefits to the community and interpretation of certain provisions of the Act.

Twenty six State Biodiversity Boards, members of the Authority, Chairpersons of the Expert Committees and Chairperson and Member Secretaries participated in the event. Chairman, NBA and other senior officers of the Ministry also participated in the meeting.

The meeting had been inaugurated by Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Shri Ashok Lavasa, yesterday. 
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established in 2003 to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002). The NBA is Autonomous body and that performs facilitative, regulatory and advisory function for Government of India on issue of Conservation, sustainable use of biological resource and fair equitable sharing of benefits of use.
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Indian Agriculture: Where Are We Headed?

Arpita Bhattacharjya
Food Policy Blogger at Thought+Food
Washington DC
@greenfork on twitter
Editorial Handling: Rabish Chandra, Scientific Curator cum Moderator, Indian Botanists


As long as I can remember, Indian Agriculture has been beset with problems. The Green Revolution was a significant change and a huge step for a country struggling to prevent famine but those productivity gains did not spread through the sector. Indeed, on my summer holiday trips, as the train would move away from the lush fields of Haryana and Punjab and towards the east, the difference in the levels of prosperity would be evident through the windows. In the years that have passed what has changed? It would seem, not much. As I participate in social media debates on the food system today, I often have to respond to the "Indian farmer suicides" issue and this prompted me to look further at the state of Indian Agriculture today.

Indian Agriculture today: the numbers

I learned that according to the National Sample Survey Office Report, 58 percent of the total population of India, about 90.2 million households, are in the agricultural sector. The observed path in most growing economies is for the number of households in the agricultural sector to fall. By that standard, this is a huge proportion and clearly, the health and vitality of this sector would have implications for the entire Indian economy and its ability to grow.

More than half the agricultural households are in debt, and 40 percent of these households are in debt to informal/non-institutional sources such as money lenders. Of the total debt, the banks and cooperative societies' share was about 60 per cent and the rest was the share of the informal sector. Farm households’ reliance on crop insurance is limited because of lack of awareness. Hampered by lack of access to credit on reasonable terms and constrained by the weather, the condition of the Indian farmer appears precarious.

The Farming Variables

For a farmer to introduce improvements, fragmented and small landholdings, threat of acquisition on unfair terms, and quality of the land that he/she owns are deterrents. The news is full of reports of murky land dealings where money and muscle power are the dominant factors, marginalizing the small landholder. Add to that the astonishing fact that the last time land surveys were conducted was during the British era. Why would a farmer invest in land over which his ownership is not secure? Lack of investment means low productivity and low income.

The Indian farmer continues to rely on the monsoons for his crop to prosper. Irrigation facilities fall short of requirements and access to pumps or drip irrigation is expensive. What is the option for rain dependent farmers’ farms facing groundwater depletion and hotter temperatures?

Climate Change
Recent spikes in the price of pulses was attributed to unseasonal rain and hail. This meant India had to rely on imports and the vendor countries were able to charge a premium which is reflected in the higher prices in the market. As we feel the increasing impact of climate disruptions, the situation will only get worse. How is Indian Agriculture going to cope with this?

Post-Harvest Loss
There is a sense of pride in being a self-sufficient nation but this is negated if the crops are left to rot or be eaten by rats in warehouses while people go hungry outside. Consider how monumental this waste is: the labor, water, nutrients that went into the harvest, all lost. From the farmer’s perspective, the lack of storage at the farm is a huge disadvantage. He is thus forced to rush the harvest to the market and accept whatever price is on offer. Being able to store the harvest would enable farmers to bring grains or produce to the market in response to demand and command a better price.
The solution lies partly in policy measures by the government: measures that will increase investment in infrastructure, extension, agricultural research, improve access to credit and new technology for farmers and partly in the methods of cultivation. Given these constraints, biotechnology can offer significant options.

Potential Biotechnology

Climate resilience
In the past, floods meant destruction of the year’s rice harvest for the farmer. The swarna 1 rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute is able to survive upto two weeks of standing water and is a huge gain fro rice farmers.

China has reportedly developed a modified rice which could require less fertilizer, less nitrogen would be released into the atmosphere which would help reduce smog. In Vietnam where flooding and sea water intrusion are threatening the Mekong delta, new varieties of rice are being developed to combat both these challenges. Bangladesh has indigenously developed a strain of rice than can grow in high salinity areas. This is not a genetically modified variety but developed by crossing two breeds. Conventional efforts like this can take time, mapping out the genes of different strains can speed up the development of the new varieties required to equip the food system to combat climate change.

Pest resistance
The best known examples of the use of biotechnology to prevent crop loss due to pests are Bt corn, soy and cotton. Bangladesh’s introduction of Bt Brinjal is being viewed with interest and the reports are encouraging. There is a sharp drop in pesticide application by the farmers growing the new variety and increasing demand from farmers to be allowed to use the improved seeds.

A recent study noted the major environmental benefits from biotechnology, including reduction use in pesticides in 2013 to the level of 600,000 tonnes. They also cause a “halo effect” so that neighboring non-GMO fields also experience reduced pest activity. Reduction in greenhouse gases from no-till and other practices associated with biotechnology were equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road. The net economic benefit for that year from the use of biotechnology was $20.5 billion, divided roughly equally between the developed and developing countries.

By producing greater yields, GMO crops require less land to grow and that means that land can go into conservation creating more green spaces.

Where Are We Today?

It is encouraging to know that field trials for modified rice, cotton, maize, mustard, brinjal and chickpea have been approved. This holds great promise for Indian agriculture. There have been delays in bringing these crops even as far as these trials because of opposition to biotechnology and the testing process needs to be a thorough and rigorous one. Indeed, no responsible advocate for this technology will call for its adoption without careful consideration and the setting of a biosafety framework is also recommended. GMO crops are the most tested, conventionally grown crops or hybrids do not face such in depth scrutiny yet they are readily available in the market.

The idea that organic or agro-ecology methods are incompatible with the use of biotechnology is misplaced. Practices like cover crops, crop rotation, no till which promote soil health when combined with high quality seeds are a sounds basis for raising agricultural productivity. The call to go back to the “good old past” is based on a false sense of nostalgia: there is nothing good about spending hours bent over weeding in the hot sun. We remember how close we came to famine while following the good old ways and the gains of the Green Revolution that saved us from that fate. We have the option of choosing to take the path offered by biotechnology and we need to base our decision on the facts and not on unfounded fear.

Addressing the Concerns

1. Are they safe?
Over 2,000 studies have concluded that GMO crops are safe for human consumption. Europe is often cited as an example of caution against GMOs. Even here, a decade long study found that GMOs are safe and hold potential. It should be noted that GMO feed is widely used in Europe for livestock without any adverse impact. The scientific consensus on this issue is as strong as that on climate change.

2. Control of multinational corporations
 Monsanto is the company most associated with this technology and most often evoked to demonstrate the negative impact of GMOs but it is only one of many companies like Syngenta, Dow, Dupont etc which produces seeds for GMO crops. Biotechnology is a technique, not to be confused with the company that uses it to produce seeds. Google is the most widely used search engine, which does not make its technology or Google itself, evil. Indeed we have all found it very useful. All companies work to make profits and that is not a reason to condemn their technology either.

Also, there are many instances where there is no corporate presence at all, for instance in the case of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh. The best example of this is perhaps Golden Rice which was developed by two scientists, provided for free to the International Rice Research Institute (a multilateral research organization) which further improved it and will make the seeds available for free to farmers when the opposition to it ceases. In the meantime, lives are lost every year to Vitamin A deficiency while the means to combat this stays unused.

India has skilled scientists and could develop the potential of biotechnology in ways appropriate and required for agriculture to prosper and this research could be in the public domain without fear of control by foreign corporations.

3. Patents
GMO crops do carry patents for a limited time, some of Monsanto’s patents expired last year, for instance. Patents are common in pharmaceuticals and other industries as well, they are not a particular feature of GMOs, if they are acceptable elsewhere then there should not be an issue in this case.

4. Saving seeds
There has been a lot of fuss made over the fact that farmers have to sign a contract not to reuse seeds. In fact, this practice is true for non-gmo hybrid seeds as well. That is because the traits which they are bred for may not show up in the second generation so new seeds are required. The cost of purchasing seeds is more than covered and profits made on the new crop which will be healthy and fetch a good price in the market. Saving seeds is also dependent on having proper storage facilities so that seeds are not damaged by weather, mold or rodent activity, and such facilities are rare for poor smallholders.

5. Unknown consequences
Humans have been trying to improve crop varieties for thousands of years, and they have been doing it randomly, crossing one strain with another in the hopes of finding the apple that would be juicy and last longer or the corn that would ripen faster and have better taste. There was no way of knowing what was happening at the genetic level in these cases. Now we have the techniques that allow us to be precise and modify the single gene that would increase drought tolerance or ensure pest resistance so the concern over consequences is limited.

6. It is not “natural”
There is a lot of misinformation in the public domain over what genetic modification means, it is not the random insertion of genes from different species. Rather it is a means of achieving a goal in the most precise way, so a rice gene is spliced in to increase flood tolerance in sub 1 rice, a gene is silenced in apples to prevent browning and wastage in Arctic apples. Being able to determine exactly which gene to work means the possibility of unintended consequences is minimal. In fact, there is even a naturally occurring GMO sweet potato. Scientists at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru have found genes from bacteria in sweet potato varieties grown in the US, South America, Africa, China and Indonesia. It is proposed that the bacteria genes helped the potato plants make two hormones that alter the root and make it edible.


The division of agriculture into organic, conventional and GMO is arbitrary and false. To meet the challenge of providing adequate and nutritious food for all the people on the planet in a time of climate disruption, we need to consider all options, and farmers already use a mix of farming practices that yield best results. For example, farming practices such as crop rotation and cover crops are ebing used in farms growing conventional and GMO crops as all farmers are interested in maintaining soil health. Organic crops can be strengthened further: consider the proposal of “rewilding” in which genes from an ancient plant variety (no longer in use) is fused with a modern variety which would create a desirable trait like saline tolerance or drought resistance. This would not involve genes from another species which has been the basis of objections. Newer varieties of GMOs now being developed, may also allow for seed saving.

The farm sector today is characterized by disenchantment, the younger generation is looking to move out from this sector but industry has not provided avenues of employment either. It is time to strengthen agriculture instead of looking elsewhere. The growth plans for the Indian economy need to incorporate a strong plan for the agricultural sector. We cannot keep waiting for the monsoons and lurching from one weather disaster to the next, a very likely prospect as climate change grows more disruptive.

This will require investment in infrastructure: better irrigation, better roads, post-harvest storage facilities, extension to share new technology with farmers, access to credit so that farmers can make the required investment in their farms, security of land tenure and the seeds that will ensure climate resilient, nutritious and abundant yield. A vision that encompasses every sector and level of activity is the optimum path to a truly strong and secure economy.

As for the issue of farmer suicides which started this piece, analysis that these are not linked to the use of GMOs is available from different sources. But to Indians, this piece which identifies crippling indebtedness, market uncertainty, insecurity of land ownership, among others, as the factors causing stress on the farm may resonate more because it states what we have all known for a long time, a reality reflected in our villages, our literature and memories: that these deaths are only the latest in a long history of our sad failure to support those who grow our food.


Author completed her M.Phil in Economics from Punjab University, India
Worked as consultant for The World Bank