A group of Bangladeshi scientists has sequenced the DNA make-up of a fungus which reduces yield of more than
500 species of crops including jute. "Our scientists, led by Dr Maqsudul Alam, have discovered the genome
sequence of a fungus which is harmful to plants," Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina told Parliament on September 19, 2012.
Dr Maqsudul Alam
The fungus, Macrophomina Phaseolina, cuts down the production of many
crops like jute, soybean, cotton, tobacco, maize and sunflower. At a press conference on Wednesday, the research team's
head Dr Alam spoke about their breakthrough. He said the fungus alone reduces 30 percent
production of tossa jute and globally costs billions of dollars in lost production.
"With this invention, we can design rational strategies for disease control and develop
fungus- resistant crops," he said. However, he did not say when the fungus-resistant jute would be
available. Dr Alam said the price would be "cost effective" and farmers would be immensely benefited.
"When we do our research we keep in mind that the invention does not prove expensive to poor farmers," he said.
The Prime Minister told Parliament that the discovery was indeed a great
achievement and set an example that Bangladesh could also contribute to the global quest for knowledge.
"An article on decoding has been published in BMC Genomics today," Alam said and added that Bangladesh
applied for three provisional patents for it.
Prof Haseena Khan of biochemistry and molecular biology department at
Dhaka University told this correspondent last night, "This (macrophomina
phaseolina) fungus causes colossal damage to various crops. With this genome decoding, we'll now be able to know all its characteristics and
can infuse new genes in jute that can fight back." Terming this a major breakthrough, she said, "This will help not only
Bangladesh. This will have universal application." In parliament, the prime minister also announced that Bangladesh has
applied for patents of all these innovations.
Scientists involved in the jute genome and fungus genome sequencing said
Bangladesh has so far filed five patent petitions and engaged three lawyers to get jute and fungus genome patented in Bangladesh's
favour. Once that's done, Bangladesh would earn patent money whoever applies
Dr Alam also headed the research project that unveiled the genome
sequence of jute in 2010. "This time, the scientists have unveiled the genome sequence of the
fungus," Hasina said and added that the feat will certainly enrich world knowledge.
Deputy Speaker Shawkat Ali, who was presiding over the session at the
time, also congratulated the scientists on behalf of Parliament. Source: The Daily Star