“Streamlining biotech expertise essential to improve agricultural proficiency”

This was stated by the Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Y S Chowdary, at the stakeholder meet on the National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)  

Union Minister, Mr Y S Chowdary lighting the lamp at the Stakeholders Meet on the National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP) in New Delhi. The Secretary, DBT, Prof K Vijay Raghavan and Dr Renu Swarup, MD, BIRAC can also be seen in the picture.

New Delhi: The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, the Certification Agency for Tissue Culture Plants organised a stakeholder meet on the “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” on July 04, 2016 in New Delhi. The event was organized by Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) to raise awareness about the opportunities under the NCS-TCP to ensure production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials.

Realizing the potential of plant tissue culture to revolutionize the growth of agriculture in India, the DBT established the National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP) in 2006 under the Seeds Act 1966 with the objective of mentoring the tissue culture companies for production and distribution of disease-free and high quality tissue culture plants.

The NCS-TCP has made a substantial impact since its inception a decade ago. Since then, 96 companies have been recognized and 5 test laboratories and two referral centres have been accredited under this system. So far, around 80 million tissue culture plants have been certified through this system.

Y S Chowdhary at National Certification for PTC 2Speaking to the media during the event, Union Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Mr Y S Chowdary, said that being an agrarian economy, India needs to streamline its expertise in the fields of biotechnology and innovation to improve its agricultural proficiency. The country’s scientists in the Department of Biotechnology have made marvelous strides in the field and improving communication between sectors to work together will definitely boost our knowledge and efforts.

The Minister noted that the commercial biotechnology sector is growing at a rate of 15 percent per annum currently. “It is very essential to work cohesively with the agriculture departments at the State level, in order to lay down standard operating procedures and regulatory mechanisms for the sustainable development of as well as avoiding the misuse of this revolutionary technology,” he said.

Mr Chowdary pointed out the abysmal level of awareness that exists among the stakeholders of Tissue Culture technology at the ground level. He opined that it needs to be addressed by methods like employing paid volunteers at village level, organizing awareness campaigns, seminars etc.  He also noted that since the sector is not a capital intensive one, it can easily be scaled up by the involvement of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, which in turn, would lead to the generation of a large amount of rural employment.

Further, the Minister stressed upon the need of working upon certain important factors like using information technology in order to give a boost to the sector; linking up the supply side to the consumer side by leveraging demand for tissue culture raised plants through awareness generation among the stakeholders; and matching international standards in the field for exploring export opportunities for Indian biotechnology products.

Addressing the gathering, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Prof K VijayRaghavan,  said  that the unifying vision of increasing crop yield and improving the lives of farmers and the general populace drives India’s efforts in the Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Agriculture. “Through the mentorship and guidance to tissue culture companies through the NCS-TCP, this department is looking to significantly improve India’s agricultural production to ensure food security in the country,” he said.

Other dignitaries present at the event were Dr C R Bhatia, former Secretary, DBT and Chairman Apex Board, NCS-TCP and Dr Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser DBT. The event also saw the participation of about 80 Tissue culture companies, farmers from key states along with government officials of the State Horticulture Mission and Horticulture Departments.

“India’s agricultural expertise is world renowned. Through partnerships and systems in place such as the NCS-TCP, we aim to further accelerate our efforts and provide disease-free and high-yielding plants, irrespective of the season. Since the launch of the NCS-TCP, the plant tissue culture market has grown rapidly in the country and we intend to continue providing support to promote the industry’s growth further,” said Mr S K Pattanayak, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.

With increasing demand for agricultural, forestry, plantation and horticulture crops, the demand for high-quality, high-yielding, disease-free planting stock has increased significantly over the last two decades. Plant tissue culture has emerged as an important biotechnology and commercially viable tool to multiply elite varieties of high quality, disease free and high yielding plants rapidly in the laboratory irrespective of the season of the year. The market size in India is estimated at Rs 500 crores.

At present, there are around 200 commercial tissue culture companies in India with a gross installed production capacity of about 500 million plantlets per annum and an actual production of approximately 350 million plants.  Banana, Potato, Sugarcane, Apple, Pineapple, Strawberry, Gerbera, Anthurium, Lillium, Orchids, Bamboo, Date Palm, Teak and Pomegranate are some of the major plants tissue cultured in India.