It’s the news they have all been waiting for. After years of living under the threat of another devastating epidemic of downy mildew, a disease similar to that which caused the Irish potato famine, India’s poorest farmers have been offered a lifeline in the form of a new disease-resistant hybrid. The hybrid has been produced in record time using modern biotechnology techniques.
In February 2005, India released its first hybrid using modern DNA techniques. “This is something new and something very big” stated Professor Witcombe, from the University of Wales, Bangor who manages the research programme “it has taken an international team of scientists more than a decade of hard work to produce this new hybrid and I believe it marks the beginning of a revolution in pearl millet breeding.”
The fact that revolutionary DNA techniques have been used to improve a crop that is grown only by the poorest farmers in India and Africa is nothing short of remarkable. Until now agricultural biotechnology has been driven almost exclusively by the private sector for farmers in the developed world. “We want to change all that and give the poorest farmers a real chance of benefiting from the first products of this new Gene Revolution” says Tom Hash, a plant breeder from ICRISAT, a member of the research team.
Elinor Elis-Williams | alfa
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