Special Correspondent

“Gene flow has no barriers, as exemplified by outbreak of A(H1N1) flu”

CHENNAI: There is an urgent need to bring down the walls separating research on animals, plants and microbes because gene flow has no barriers, as exemplified by the outbreak of the A(H1N1) flu, said Mangala Rai, Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) on Saturday.

“A virus is a virus and it can change its form and functions as long as we [human beings] are there,” Dr. Rai said after inaugurating a laboratory-cum-administrative building and laying the foundation stone for a trainees hostel at the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) here.

He called upon the CIBA and Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) to join hands and work closely.

DNA Bank

Explaining the Rs.20-crore DNA Bank and Rs.57-crore project for Gene Discovery and Allele Mining, he said transfer of salt-tolerant genes in marine tiger shrimps to plants could one day facilitate the use of seawater in agriculture.

Similarly, the genes of the catfish, which survived in brackish water with low oxygen level could enable paddy crops to survive floods.

Dr. Rai said India with over 8,000-km coastline, offered tremendous scope not only for fisheries but also fish-based products.

TANUVAS Vice-Chancellor P. Thangaraju stressed the need for creating a sperm bank for fisheries, arguing that research on the genetic aspect of fisheries was still lacking. “It is necessary to create hybrid species of marine and inland fish species.” Fish feed technology was another area that required attention.

CIBA director A.G. Ponnaiah said there was increasing demand for training programmes offered by the institute and the hostel facility would enable imparting of training to more people.

S. Ayyappan, Deputy Director General (Fisheries), ICAR, and G. Syda Rao, Director, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), were among those who spoke.