Australia’s High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese, welcomed a landmark research and health initiative between Australia and India.
ustralia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, have entered into a $AUD 2.6-million (approximately Rs 148 million) partnership to help stamp out iron-deficiency anaemia, a major cause of maternal death during childbirth.
The agreement was signed in India on behalf of QUT and the Department of Biotechnology’s BIRAC. The project will see new strains of iron-rich bananas developed and will be jointly led by QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities Director, Distinguished Professor James Dale and Dr Rakesh Tuli of the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute.
Other partners include the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, National Research Centre for Bananas, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research.
“Australia is delighted to be associated with such an important project that would help prevent avoidable maternal mortality in India,” said Mr Varghese.
“Bananas are a staple food in India, particularly in the south of the country,” said Professor Dale. “Once we develop the new banana varieties they should be widely available and provide a rich and easily accessible source of iron.”
“This is a significant step forward in addressing a major health issue in India’s nutrition deficient population,” said Dr Renu Swarup, Managing Director, BIRAC, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
BIRAC is providing Australian $1.2 million (Rs 68 million) to QUT and another Australian $1.4 million (Rs 80 million) towards the cost of the Indian component of the program. Professor Dale said QUT felt privileged to enter into the agreement with India as this was the first technology transfer agreement the Indian government had entered into with an international organisation in the field of biotechnology.
He added the project would build upon ongoing research QUT was undertaking to increase the nutritional content of bananas in Uganda under the auspices of the Gates Foundation. He said the Indian banana project would involve an initial four-year development phase and it would then take another four to five years to prepare the bananas for release to Indian farmers.
“Iron deficiency causes particular problems for pregnant women and is one of the major causes of maternal death during child birth,” he said. “Iron-deficiency is a problem for all developing countries, associated with low nutrition, not just vegetarianism,” Professor Dale said. (ANI)