From high protein quinoa to soybean seeds whose pods can be consumed by humans while the oil is not only easily digestible but can also be stored longer, the Centre’s bucket-list of 21 bio-fortified seeds that will be notified in the next few months contains a whole host of items that are expected to reach the farmers in the next 2-3 years. During the past 5-6 years, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, the nodal body that governs and runs the country’s seeds programmed, has released 71 bio-fortified seed varieties of various crops that include rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet, finger millets, linseeds, mustard and also vegetables such a cauliflower, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. “These 29 consists of almost all the identified bio-fortified vegetables and also a host of cereals and pulses including wheat,” a senior scientist from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research told Business Standard. He said the 17 bio-fortified seeds in eight major crops dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year during the World Food Day programmed were part of this original list of 71 identified seeds.
So far, the ICAR has provided 11,000 quintals of bio-fortified seeds in various crops to state-run research agencies such as National Seed Corporation and State Seed Corporation and also to over 200 private seed companies. Of, this bio-fortified wheat comprises a sizable chunk of seeds that has been availed by the private companies for commercial use. In the last few years, around 4 million hectares of wheat have been brought under bio-fortified seeds, while 0.15 million hectares of bio-fortified mustard and pearl millet have also grown. “The biggest problem is traceability at the mandi level because in a mandi it is not known which wheat is grown from bio-fortified seeds which are not.”
He said the large-scale availability of seeds also remains a cause of concern because of the high-quality standards that need to be adhered to before a bio-fortified hybrid variety is released for commercial use.