Latin America cooperates on (some) information

I just got the book (plus CD) containing the abstracts of the papers to be delivered here in Mexico at the 6th SIRGEALC, and there’s lots of great stuff. Unfortunately the abstracts are not online, although the programme is. That’s a pity. I’ll try to find out whether there are any plans to put them up later on. There was a lot of talk today within and among the various regional plant genetic resources networks in the Americas, which are having their annual meetings just prior to SIRGEALC at the same venue, about information systems. We still do not have a system for sharing online data on plant genetic resources accessions in genebanks. We’re trying to do something about that, but, as I concidentally found out today  from a SciDevNet story, the herbarium people are way ahead of us.

A genebank opens

Tunisia just got a new genebank. Which is fine. But it will come as a surprise to many to see it described as “the first African as well Arab Gene’s Bank.” It is certainly not the first genebank in Africa, nor the first in the Arab world. It isn’t even the first one in Arab Africa. I don’t think it’s the first one in Tunisia, in fact. FAO has information on about 1,400 genebanks around the world. It would be very difficult, I think, for a new genebank to be the first one anywhere. Ok, maybe Antartctica. Although actually I heard today in the SIRGEALC corridors that Argentina keeps a safety duplicate of its material on its territory there. I really need to verify that. The Arctic, of course, is taken. Or it will be on 24 February 2008 when the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opens. Fourteen hundred genebanks. My question is: with the International Treaty on PGRFA and its Multilateral System of facilitated access and benefit sharing now in force, at least for some crops, how many genebanks do we really, truly need?

Brazil reaches out

The website of the Arab Brazil Chamber of Commerce has a long, fascinating interview with Silvio Crestana, president of EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. Having set up shop in Ghana, EMBRAPA is now thinking of doing something similar in Morocco and Qatar. It is great that the considerable expertise of Brazilian agricultural scientists is going to be shared more widely with the rest of the world. But benefits — including agricultural biodiversity — are expected to flow both ways. Here’s a selection of quotes to give you the flavour:

The whole world will be experiencing … confusions caused by climate change, and if we manage to obtain a plant with a gene that is more tolerant to drought, it will attract a lot of interest.

They are well developed in goat raising. They have goats that give birth to three lambs (usually they give birth to a single lamb). This is of great interest to Brazil, to our goat raising centres, which are located in the Northeast. This race is of interest to Brazil. There could be a transfer from there to here.

Another field of interest is olives, olive trees. They are way ahead of us in that field, and the demand for those is growing in Brazil… It is an ideal field for us to cooperate, they have research, they cultivate many different varieties, they have an amazing variety of olives, small, large, of all sizes and features, for oil, edible ones.

They also have varieties and research on wheat. They have a very interesting variety of wheat that we are interested in for hybridisations, germplasm banks.

Our germplasm bank, from the vantage point of tropical biodiversity, is like no other. They would benefit from that.