Gunning for biotechnology

The US and Indian business lobby along with the Union government gang up to "educate" the public about biotechnology

Published: Wednesday 28 February 2001

The vast economic potential of biotechnology in India has created some interesting alliances. At the Indian Science Congress held recently in New Delhi, the Confederation of Indian Industry (cii), the Union government's department of biotechnology (dbt), and a delegation of lawyers from the us joined hands to convince the public regarding the benefits of biotechnology.

"Whether we like it or not, we are in the century of biotechnology. Looking at the way the biotechnology industry is progressing, in just a few years, it is going to overtake industrial developments," asserted Manju Sharma of the dbt . Franklin M Zweig, president of the us-based Einstein Institute for Science, Health and the Courts made a presentation during the public forum on genetically modified organisms and genomics (see 'Yawn', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 17).

Zweig was a part of a us delegation of judges and lawyers that had come to "educate" A S Anand, the chief justice, and the other justices of the apex court on the benefits of biotechnology and on the need to accept patents on living organisms. Zweig said that his meetings with the judges of the apex court had been "very productive" and that he was "quite happy" with the results.

cii and dbt jointly published a booklet, 'Facts about Biotechnology', and distributed it at the congress. The booklet's purpose was to dispel public concerns about the threats posed by biotechnology. It cited many examples of scientific progress made in dealing with such threats.

The latest issue of cii's publication, Communique, also indicates a huge market potential of biotech products in India. According to cii predictions, consumption of biotech products in India will double from us $1.789 billion in 1999 to us $4.270 billion by 2010. According to estimates, over the next five years, biotechnology presents opportunities for "fresh investment" of Rs 7-8 billion.

The publication also states that one of the main impediments to the development of the biotechnology industry in India is "excessive regulation, which causes unnecessary delays." For the research sector, that investment potential represents ample funding. For India's biotech industry, the projected consumption presents lucrative opportunities. For the us industry, less regulation means more chances of dominating the Indian market.

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