Agriculture is the back bone of Indian economy contributing to more than 50% of the employment generation and supporting many agro-based industries. Though, Green Revolution has saved the country from recurrent problems of hunger, we still need to conquer the menace of hidden hunger because of malnutrition. India has produced more than 250 million tonnes of food grain, but it is a matter of great concern that substantial amount of it lost due to the lack of proper long-term storage and post-harvest processing facilities in the country. The situation is worst in case of storability of horticultural and vegetable produce. We use to receive many shocking news of throwing of tomatoes and potatoes on the road because of bumper harvest by the hardworking Indian farming community. There is thus an urgent need of saving perishable Agri-produce along with bringing nutritional revolution in the country by using the latest biotechnological approaches. Now we should think of quality along with quantity while designing any R & D programmes in Agri-food sector in the country. Biotechnological tools available in the public domain could expedite the development of designer crops. The transgenic technology has been used successfully for sustainable agricultural production in many countries. Other important traits like herbicide tolerance, insect-pest resistance, virus resistance, delayed fruit ripening; oil quality and composition, nutritional enhancement, and male sterility and restoration systems have already been targeted by using different biotechnological approaches. Besides, various omics approaches have made possible to decode the complex genomes of crop plants and assigning functions to the otherwise many unknown genes and developing genome wide DNA markers. It has helped in developing improved crop varieties resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. However, progress in developing nutritionally rich crop varieties is rather slow.
National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) was established at Mohali, Punjab with the objectives of doing cutting edge research in the areas of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional biotechnology.
The institute has been primarily working in the areas of
- Improving crops for nutrition and processing quality,
- Improving fruits for post-harvest quality and nutrition,
- Basic biology for crop improvement,
- Functional foods for better health and
- Genomics and computational biology for marker and gene discovery.
These areas will be further expanded as we grow in basic infrastructure and skilled human resources. In future, we would like to concentrate more on bringing Nutritional Revolution in the country by applying latest molecular biology techniques to develop designer crops for better nutrition, besides developing specialty and functional foods. We will also focus more on the development of skilled human resource in the areas of Agri-Food biotechnology and nutritional biology and transfer of technology to the end users for serving the society in a better way.
Dr. T R Sharma, Executive Director NABI