India, US to cooperate now in agricultural biosecurity

By Arun Kumar


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Washington : India and the US have agreed to add a new frontier area of biosecurity to their ongoing cooperation under the US-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI) to reduce the threat to crops from alien invasive species.

The agreement to include biosecurity as a new component under emerging area of biotechnology – one of the four identified focus areas – was announced here Friday after the group's fifth board meeting.

Another positive outcome was the inclusion of private sector in the initiative for the first time, said Mangala Rai, director general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (IARI) who co-chaired the meeting from the Indian side.

A US biotechnology company and Indian private and public sector partners will forge research partnerships to develop new rice varieties that tolerate drought and salt, he noted.

The two sides also agreed to develop a project on knowledge and operational linking of the National Agricultural Library of US and (National) IARI Library.

"Through the AKI partnership, we have made significant progress to forge lasting private sector and university relationships between our two countries that will flourish well into the future," said US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

US Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Agricultural Services A. Ellen Terpstra co-chaired the meeting from the US side. The board will meet again in late 2007 to evaluate current projects and determine new joint ventures.

The AKI was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush in July 2005 to renew collaboration between the US and India. A work plan, formulated in February 2006, defined the initiative into four focus areas – university capacity building, food processing and marketing, biotechnology and water management.

Other decisions under the four areas of agricultural collaboration were:

1. Capacity Building

* Funding for Indian participants in Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Programme to study best agricultural and food processing practices and biotechnology
* Exchange of Fulbright Scholar Programme students from the US and India
* Three new USAID Higher Education Partnerships between US Land Grant universities and Indian state agricultural universities
* For 2007, 10 more participants for the USAID Farmer to Farmer Programme
* A workshop on sanitary and phytosanitary capacity building, as well as science-based risk analysis and modeling, scheduled in India in summer 2007
* A trade and investment mission for US agribusinesses in early 2008

2. Food Processing and Marketing

* Funding for Cochran Fellowship Programme participants to learn about marketing practices in the US
* Training in cold chain technology, sanitary and phytosanitary techniques, strengthening marketing systems through extension training, contract farming, linking farmers and markets and micro-enterprise development
* Two train-the-trainer sessions on strengthening agricultural marketing systems in October 2007
* USDA collaboration with Indian hosts at the Fall 2007 meeting of CODEX
Committee of Food Hygiene
* Development of online resources for contract farming

3. Biotechnology

* Training scientists to use biotechnological tools to solve agricultural problems and improve crops
* Training biotechnological patent examiners and developers of universally accepted regulations and standards
* Workshop on harnessing the benefits of biotechnology
* User's guide to food safety guidelines to be produced in 2007

4. Water Resources Management

* University staff from Iowa State University to set up distance learning classrooms at three Indian universities in August 2007
* Fifteen students from both countries to be recruited to participate in US-India "sandwich" degree programme in international water management, beginning summer 2007
* Research projects established at Indian universities on using waste water for irrigation and harvesting water for recharging groundwater
* US undergraduate students (10-15) to travel to India to work with Indian students on design projects
* Workshop to discuss measurement, monitoring and identification of research needs in September 2007