Genetic technologies should be focused

In the period 2006-2010, the total budget for developing and applying biotechnology in agriculture was 328 billion VND (approx US$15 million) for 131 projects including 100 billion VND for 47 projects on fisheries (approx US$ 4.6 million).

To develop biotechnology sector, it is important to invest in research of hi-tech product, amend human resource training policy and mechanism, and promote the participation of private sector. This was conclusion made by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Cao Duc Phat in the conference reviewing the “Key Program on Developing and Applying Biotechnology in Agriculture and Rural Development” held in late 2010.
Human resource trainning   
In the period of 2006-2010, a number of 73 MSs, 22 PhDs and 1370 technicians have graduated in biotechnology. Another 65 MAs and 21 PhDs have been sent for studying overseas. However, these figures are much lower than the target set in the “Key Program on Developing and Applying Biotechnology in Agriculture”.
The biggest weaknesses of candidates are skill of making research blueprint and poor foreign language skill.
“In fact, human resource training in biotechnology is a very difficult task due to the weakness of foreign language skill among agriculture officials. Therefore, out of 224 people appointed, few were effluent in English enough to be sent to study abroad,” said Mr. Nguyen Tan Hinh, Vice Head of Department of Science Technology and Environment of MARD.
The other hindrance is the extremely limited national budget for human resource development and the unclear budget allocation mechanism. Although MARD has tried to associate training scheme with specific projects, but due to limitation of project’s budget the training time was always too short (not over 3 months) and the number of trainees was few (1-2 persons/project).
In some cases, project budget is approved for 3-6 months overseas study but then changed because “the study location is out of contact” or “it is unessential to learn”.
Vice Minister Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu said it is better to concentrate on in-country training because many people can enroll at a time. Moreover, Vietnamese universities and research institutes have good and modern material facilities, which are comparable with ASEAN region or even European countries. The matter is how to maximize the capacity of these facilities and fund the essential research tool.
Supply and demand
Many experts said the outcome of state-funded ARD biotechnology research is very poor given the practical demand and budget expense.
“The selected subjects are very fragmental and based mainly on the ability of the researchers but not on the end-users’ demand. Therefore, it is very difficult or take lot of time for these products to enter into the market,” Thu said
“Fisheries industry has high demand for biotechnology and many biotechnological products are being used in aquatic seed production and farming. However, a large part of advanced biotechnology products are imported from oversea or made in Viet Nam but by foreign-based companies”.
According to Mr. Duong Hoa Xo, Director of Biotechnology Center in Ho Chi Minh City, good products produced locally were also very difficult to enter into market.
“Our Biotechnology Center in Ho Chi Minh City has successfully produced the vaccine against Edwardsiella ictaluri in Pangasius with the survival rate of nearly 100% in laboratory. However, the product has not been submitted for certification because of complicated and time-consuming procedure.”
He said the demand for biological products against sediment in pond bottom is very big. State office should consider buying this technology from certain foreign companies instead of having local scientists make research from scratch. There should be concentrated effort to produce certain biotechnological products which have high demand instead of making scattered investment which does not bring practical results.
Genetic technology should be focused

“It is necessary to clarify which biotechnology products are needed because the list of the proposed projects shows many low-tech products while we want o have hi-tech ones” – Minister Cao Duc Phat emphasized – “not to mince matters in the next 5-10 years we have to target to genetic technology”.
According to him, the basic solution is to have  proper mechanism and policy,  especially the financial mechanism to re-educate staff, send them to study in- country and abroad, employ foreign experts, buy vector, and open local biotechnology market.
“Beside, it is necessary to build up policy encouraging enterprise to invest in biotechnology esearch and transfer. Enterprises would spend hundred of billion dongs for the technology and facility they needed without the help of state budget,” Phat said.
Source: Vietfish International


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