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A First By India
Biotech-based anti-rabies vaccine
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
India has achieved a major breakthrough in preparing an anti-rabies vaccine for animals, the first of its kind in the world.

The new vaccine, technically called DNA vaccine, has been prepared through the application of biotechnology. Rabies is common among stray animals in the country. A similar vaccine is under preparation for human beings also.

This was told to The Tribune by Dr S.R. Rao, adviser, department of biotechnology, union government, here today. Dr Rao said the vaccine had been sent to the drug controller of India for approval to launch it in the market. “Vaccine trials on animals have been conducted successfully”, said Dr Rao.

“After approval from the controller, it will be available in the market”, he added. “ India is the first country to come out with such a vaccine”, he asserted.

Dr Rao was here to speak at a workshop organised to educate and give information with regard to the application of biotechnology in various fields, especially agriculture and pharmaceuticals, to journalists by the Punjab state council for science and technology in collaboration with the ministry of environment and forests at the press club today. The international service for acquisition of agri-biotech applications had also extended its support to organise the workshop.

Dr Rao said the union cabinet had cleared a proposal to set up a national biotechnology regulatory authority. As a number of government and private bodies were involved in biotechnology- based research, the authority was required to oversee all this. It would be an autonomous body and function as a nodal agency to deal with all aspects related to biotechnology. He said strong regulatory systems were in place to ensure the safe use of biotechnology to produce various crops, medicines, etc.

He said all public sector institutions engaged in the field of biotechnology were introducing genes in crop varieties, the seed of which could be utilised by farmers again. “ Our effort is to introduce genes to counter pest attacks in common varieties and not hybrid ones, the seed of which farmers had to buy again at sowing time”, said Dr Rao. “ If we are able to check the attack of various pests, it could ensure good yields”, he added. This was being done to check the monopoly of multinational companies on seed production and sale. He tried to dispel what he described as misconceptions with regard to genetically engineered crops. “ The level of use of pesticides on cotton in Punjab has been cut by about 70 per cent”, he claimed. “ It takes 10 years to prepare one genetically engineered variety”, he said.

Dr B.S. Dhillon, director, research, Punjab Agriculture University, said that already about 10 lakh packets of Bt cotton seed had been sold in the state. “ We are expecting 4 lakh hectares of the total 6.5 lakh hectares to be under Bt cotton this year”, said Dr Dhillon. Pesticides worth Rs 700 crore were used in Punjab to check the attack of various pests, etc.

However, now pesticides worth Rs 200 crore were used.

Among the speakers were Dr R.G. Saini, Dr Gurinderjit Singh Randhawa, Dr J.K. Arora, Dr Bhagirath Choudhary, N.S. Tiwana and Dr B.S. Dhillon. Earlier, Balwant Takshak, president of the club, welcomed the speakers and thanked them for organising the workshop.

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