What were the challenges faced by NDRI during animal cloning? And how they were tackled?
The major challenges in such program is that it require lot of funding. The research interest was generated in the area of cloning and embryonic stem cell in the year 2004 subsequently, our team decided to form a project in the area of embryonic stem cell which was granted by Department of Biotechnology (Govt. of India) and subsequently by NAIP, ICAR and New Delhi. Since the embryonic stem cell research and cloning are very closely associated with each other and complements each other, we decided to initiate work in the area of cloning in the year 2006. Our team decided to formulate and submit a mega project in the year 2008, in collaboration with Sher –e- Kashmir Univ. of Agril. Sci & technology with NDRI as a lead Centre under competitive mode under NAIP. Finally the team was awarded the project on buffalo cloning in 2009.
What role do you foresee this technology playing in enhancing quality in animal husbandry?
Buffalo is the mainstay of Indian dairy industry as it contributes over 55% of the total milk production, making it the world’s largest milk producing nation. However, since the productive and reproductive efficiency of buffalo is poor, making biotechnological interventions for their improvement is the need of the hour.
It is well known that percentage of elite buffaloes in India is very low despite having the largest population of the best buffaloes in the world. There is also an acute shortage of outstanding buffalo bulls. Having felt the need to quickly enhance the number of elite buffaloes, reproductive technologies like Embryo Transfer Technology (ETT), that had given very encouraging results in cattle, were applied to this species. However, due to some inherent problems in buffalo, application of multiple ovulation and embryo transfer (MOET) in buffalo did not meet the expectation. Birth of ‘Dolly’ through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) paved the way for multiplication of animals through cloning. No other reproductive technology like ETT, in-vitro fertilization etc. can bring about faster multiplication of elite buffaloes than cloning. It was therefore felt by the team that standardization of animal cloning technology was the need of the hour and needed to be exploited for harvesting the benefits in shortest possible time.
To what extent farmers will get benefit from this technology?
Haryana’s trade in milch animals outside the state lends undoubtedly a great economic fillip to rural breeders of Murrah buffalo. A number of milk processing dairy plants are dependent on the quantity of milk produced by the organized and unorganized small and marginal farmers. Producing elite buffalo will increases the overall economy of the farmers and dairy industry.
What more would NDRI like government to do?
There is a need to give more emphasis on animal cloning and other reproductive technologies and use this for quality animal production. We also need to formulate policies to restrict the expanding population of low quality, low producing non- descript animals.