Tiruchirapalli, Oct 26 (UNI) The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) is in the process of preparing a Draft Bill for introduction in the Lok Sabha making it mandatory for companies producing seeds through tissue culture to certify the seeds as virus, pest and disease-free, according to a senior scientist.
Interacting with the press on the sidelines of an ongoing national conference on banana here today, former ICAR Chief S J Singh said the law became absolutely necessary as India's agro-product sector was on the threshold of witnessing a huge surge in exports to foreign countries.
While farmers accepted tissue culture, it was necessary they were alerted to the dangers of virus epidemic emanating from saplings or seeds supplied by tissue culture companies, Dr Singh said.
A member of ICAR's Research Advisory Committee, Dr Singh said it was imperative the insect vectors were monitored and action taken even at the level of analysing the parent seeds.
To a question, he said though virus attacks did not affect the humans, there was depletion in productivity, shelf-life, change in shape or colour, inconsistent and non-uniform growth and in some cases, the taste and smell of fruits and vegetables underwent changes.
Dr Singh said most of the countries had enacted stringent rules and regulations on the issue and virus affected plants were not allowed even in kitchen gardens.
It was high time the Union Government enacted a law on the issue and set up adequate regulatory mechanisms to curb or stop tissue culture products hosting virus tinges.
On bananas, the senior scientist said he had already identified the prime viruses affecting the crop namely banana bract mosaic and banana streak virus prevailing widely in southern India and slowly migrating to other parts of the country making their monitoring vital.
On a rough estimate, eight to nine million tissue cultured plants were planted every year by banana growers. But the standards maintained by tissue culture breeders were not up to the standards.
These plants should be tested for genetic fidelity and viruses in institutions like National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB).
State-owned research centres dotting the country were capable of testing them and issuing due certifications, he added.