26th December, 2002

HIGH QUALITY DRAFT SEQUENCE OF RICE GENOME DECLARED COMPLETED

A high quality draft sequence of rice genome by the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) has been declared completed. This was announced by the Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo at the just concluded ceremony organised to commemorate the event of decoding of the rice genome. He hailed it as a great achievement in international cooperation in plant science research and epoch making feat comparable to the completion of the first draft of the human genome two years ago.

In a message to the ceremony, the Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee said ‘it is a matter of great pride for India that its scientists have contributed to this international effort. He complimented in particular the Department of Biotechnology which in association with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, jointly launched the Indian initiative at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and the University of Delhi, South Campus. Also congratulating scientists from ten participating nations, Shri Vajpayee expressed the confidence that ‘publicly available rice genome sequence will be used by crop scientists to pursue their goal in basic science and agriculture.

India has the largest area in the world under rice cultivation totalling 28 percent of its arable land. The Indian scientists completed the international obligation as member of the IRGSP in a record time of two and a half years, contributing 15 million bases of sequence for Chromosome 11. The rice genome sequence harboring 62,435 genes would serve as global heritage and golden standard for gene discovery and precision breeding for crop improvement. This sequencing will also help in uncovering useful genes from wheat, maize and millets etc., close relatives of rice.

A working group meeting was also held as part of the ceremony to plan future strategies for genome completion and annotation. As parallel future strategy, the Department of Biotechnology has evolved a functional genomics effort, on inter-institutional basis, covering all scientists and agencies. These endeavours have heralded a new era in plant molecular biology research, for crop improvement, the Department of Biotechnology says.