Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.02.2002

World FOOD RESOURCES everybody's interest

"AGRICULTURAL researchers, particularly in the public sector, have a special mission to ensure that the world deals with problems of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation in a socially responsible manner." This is the strong view of Sanjaya Rajaram, Director of the Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT).

At a recent forum in Canberra, Dr Rajaram received the inaugural Crawford Fund DerekTribe Award, which recognises the contributions to research in agriculture in the developing world made by a citizen of a developing country. In his address to the forum, Dr Rajaram described what CIMMYT was doing to ensure that more people secured "two of the most basic human rights: the right to food and to a secure livelihood".

He warned that hungry people would not stay in the countryside and starve; they would migrate into protected ecological reserves, to urban areas or to other countries to stay alive.

Agricultural researchers had a responsibility to demonstrate that global endeavours on behalf of poor people were valuable for all of society. He urged the formation of more flexible and better-funded coalitions for development.

He said CIMMYT had several alliances with the private sector, which it entered only when they enhanced CIMMYT's ability to serve the resource-poor and the environment. Research results were freely available to partners in developing countries. Dr Rajaram described the ongoing international research partnerships that extended across nations as an early experiment in globalisation for the public good. He said the crux of the global collaboration in wheat research was the exchange of seed by CIMMYT and public research programs worldwide. Every year CIMMYT made about 19,000 crosses, whose products became available to breeders throughout the world. And a note on approaches to GE In the ongoing debate on genetic engineering, it's nice to know where people stand.

The International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), the source of most wheat varieties currently grown in Australia, has published the five points that guide its GE strategy:

  • Plant varieties that are genetically engineered by CIMMYT are developed in concert with a national program partner to meet a delineated need.
  • CIMMYT provides only transformed plants that carry "clean" events, meaning that only the gene of interest is inserted into the final product.
  • No transformed plants that carry selectable markers, such as herbicide or antibiotic resistance, are provided to national programs for release. CIMMYT's focus on possible genes for transfer is only on plant, bacterial, fungal and viral genes (i.e. not on animal genes, especially human genes).
  • CIMMYT works only in countries that have biosafety legislation and regulations.