The multifarious history of healthy oats

by Luigi Guarino on May 26, 2012

News of a healthy new oat variety sent me scurrying to the Pedigrees of Oat Lines (POOL) website at Agriculture Canada, but alas BetaGene is not there. However, our source on all things oats tells us of another US cultivar, released some years ago, called HiFi, which is also high in those heart-friendly beta glucans. Our source thinks HiFi was probably involved in developing BetaGene.

HiFi, by the way, includes a whole bunch of wild relatives in its pedigree, including Avena magna, A. longiglumis and A. sterilis. Interestingly, when you check up on that A. magna in GRIN, it turns out that the accession used, which was collected in Khemisset, Morocco in 1964, was originally labelled A. sterilis. It looks as though seeds of a couple of different species were inadvertently placed into a single collecting bag on that far-off summer day in North Africa. The mishap was only recognized when the material was later processed in the USDA genebank, which led to the original sample being divided up. Ah, the perils of crop wild relatives collecting! And ah, the value-adding that genebanks do!

Incidentally, there’s material from at least half a dozen different countries in HiFi’s1 pedigree. And that, of course,2 is the standard argument for both genebanks holding diverse collections, and a multilateral system of access to (and sharing of the benefits deriving from the use of) that diversity. Too bad that point is not made in any of the news items about the new variety that have been appearing.

I don’t really understand that. I think “the public” would find it interesting that their porridge, or whatever, includes genetic material from all over the world, and that people have been working very hard for many years to put in place the conditions to allow such sharing to continue. Including an international treaty, no less. Which should really be telling us these stories.

LATER: …as opposed to these.

Footnotes:
  1. And therefore BetaGene’s? []
  2. As we may have mentioned before… []

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