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UK and India Partner on $32M Agriculture Program

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council will manage a new grant program that will use £20 million ($31.7 million) to fund a range of research projects in the UK and India aimed at improving food security in the developing world, according to BBSRC.

Funded by BBSRC, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, and the Indian Department of Biotechnology, the new initiative will award grants to support research approaches, which could include genomics, to improve the sustainability of food crops.

The funding under the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development Initiative will be awarded to research teams that can show how their work may improve food security and boost crop sustainability within the next five-to-10 years.

The new initiative will place particular emphasis on improving the "sustainable production of staple food crops across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia," Sam Dryden, director of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

"These include cassava, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat. By placing significant emphasis on these crops the initiative partners expect to be able to improve food security and quality of life for the largest possible number of people," Dryden explained.

According to Stephen O'Brien, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, millions in the two regions depend on staple crops such as maize and rice as a source of food and income. "Reducing the unpredictability of growing crops helps to ensure that the poorest countries are able to feed their people, cope with sudden global food price changes, and ultimately boost economic growth," he said.

BBSRC Chief Executive Douglas Kell added that "Scientists and organizations across the world have the capabilities and expertise to make a real difference in meeting the global food security challenge but no single organization or country can do this on its own."

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