Good-bye to all that Annex I?

The ninth meeting was held last week of the snappily titled Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The indispensable Earth Negotiations Bulletin provides a summary of the results.

You’ll remember the Treaty has entrusted this working group with the task of looking for ways of increasing and speeding up the flow of money into the Benefit Sharing Fund. The meeting came up with a package of measures, comprising revisions of both the Standard Material Transfer Agreement used to distribute germplasm from the Multi-lateral System (MLS) and the list of plant genera included in the MLS (Annex I).

As far as the latter is concerned, there was agreement on a significant expansion:

Participants achieved an important breakthrough on Thursday night, with a tentative agreement on amending the list of crops in the MLS, currently in Annex I of the Treaty. While as usual in international negotiations, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Working Group participants expressed satisfaction with the well-balanced compromise: the MLS would cover all PGRFA under the management and control of parties and in the public domain that are found in ex situ conditions, while parties have the right to make reasoned declarations exempting a limited number of native species.

And as for the other side of the coin, it seems that there will be a move towards a subscription system, where a single up-front payment buys you access to the MLS for a specified period, while allowing the current pay-for-use system as an exception:

With agreement that the subscription system would be the main approach and single access would be the exception, the proposal to set a lower rate for the primary model and a much higher rate for exceptional single access to attract more users and hopefully more funds garnered significant interest.

Predictably, not everyone is entirely happy about how things have been going. But negotiations continue, with the final package to be discussed at the next meeting of the Governing Body of the Treaty in November.

European spud history unthreaded

I could blog about the recent paper which used sequencing of old herbarium specimens, including one collected by Darwin, to trace the genetic history of potatoes in Europe. But I think I’ll let one of the authors do it instead.

If you don’t like Twitter, you can see the thread unspooled without going anywhere near it.

The pink banana of Peru

From the latest issue of Jeremy’s newsletter:

The standard story of the banana’s domestication and spread is that it started in southeast Asia, popped across to Africa and then went to the Caribbean and the tropical zones of the Americas. Peru’s best kept banana secret looks into a very special group of bananas called Iholena cultivars. That’s their Hawaiian name, and a clue to the reverse journey they made, east across the Pacific. The taste of these varieties reflects “a rich and lingering semi-sweetness piqued with a lemony tang”. That may be one reason people in Peru like them. Another is that they are very nutritious; the pink-orange pulp is high in vitamin A precursors. ProMusa advises waiting until the skin is black before eating one of these bananas, should you be so lucky, because the peel turns yellow before the fruit is ripe.

There’s more where that came from.

CGIAR gets its data together

GARDIAN, the Global Agricultural Research Data Innovation & Acceleration Network, is the CGIAR flagship data harvester. GARDIAN enables the discovery of publications and datasets from the thirty-odd institutional publications and data repositories across all CGIAR Centers to enable value addition and innovation via data reuse.

Among the goodies that GARDIAN harvests are two geo-referenced datasets: genebank accession localities from Genesys and 2005 crop production, harvested area and yield. I’ve often advocated here for the mashing up of these datasets. Here, for example, is irrigated harvested area (grey-black) and genebanks accessions (dark green) for rice in part of Asia.

The colour scheme needs work, I guess, but it’s a start.

There are also about 250 documents featuring the word “genebank” for you to explore.

GARDIAN is a product of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.

Brainfood: Macadamia domestication, Middle Eastern wheat, ART virus, Open science, Red Queen, Food system change, Chinese Neolithic booze, Dough rings, Making maps, Biofortification, Endophytes, African maize, Switchgrass diversity, Ancestral legume