Brainfood: Genebank technology, Genebank research, Apple genomes, Napier genome, Wheat genome, Blue maize, FACE, Pigeonpea diversity, Millet domestication, Ancient dogs, Ancient bovids, Domestication syndrome, Date pollen, Commons, Genetic diversity trifecta

Genebanks and Food Security in a Changing Agriculture

This special issue results from a renewed call to demonstrate the value-in-use of conserving and supplying plant genetic resources conserved in genebanks to researchers, plant breeders, and farmers. We present these studies as a collective contribution to a relatively small body of literature that highlights not only the importance of crop plant diversity managed by genebanks but also the diversity of genebank functions and uses.

The special issue is of Food Security.

Here’s the running order:

  • Valuing genebanks — Melinda Smale, Nelissa Jamora
  • Conserving genetic resources for agriculture: economic implications of emerging science — Douglas Gollin
  • The contribution of the International Rice Genebank to varietal improvement and crop productivity in Eastern India — Donald Villanueva, Melinda Smale, Nelissa Jamora, Grace Lee Capilit
  • Dynamic conservation of genetic resources: Rematriation of the maize landrace Jala — Vanessa Ocampo-Giraldo, Carolina Camacho-Villa, Denise E. Costich
  • Andean potato diversity conserved in the International Potato Center genebank helps develop agriculture in Uganda: the example of the variety ‘Victoria’ — Vivian Bernal-Galeano, George Norton, David Ellis, Noelle L. Anglin
  • The contribution of the CIAT genebank to the development of iron-biofortified bean varieties and well-being of farm households in Rwanda — Stefania Sellitti, Kate Vaiknoras, Melinda Smale, Nelissa Jamora
  • Use and benefits of tree germplasm from the World Agroforestry genebank for smallholder farmers in Kenya — Kavengi Kitonga, Nelissa Jamora, Melinda Smale, Alice Muchugi
  • The tale of taro leaf blight: a global effort to safeguard the genetic diversity of taro in the Pacific — Sefra Alexandra, Nelissa Jamora, Melinda Smale, Michel E. Ghanem
  • Transferring diversity of goat grass to farmers’ fields through the development of synthetic hexaploid wheat — Hafid Aberkane, Thomas Payne, Masahiro Kishi, Melinda Smale, Ahmed Amri
  • ‘Warehouse’ or research centre? Analyzing public preferences for conservation, pre-breeding and characterization activities at the Czech genebank — Nicholas Tyack, Milan Ščasný

Kudos to my colleague Nelissa Jamora for making it happen.

Brainfood: CGIAR genebanks, Sweet potato heat, Rice breeding, CWR gap trifecta, PES, Wild potatoes, Wild olives, Rare olives, Cryo veggies, Broccoli diversity, Crop switching, Cattle diversity, IK

A way forward on DSI?

You may remember an old blog post of mine over on the work website describing how an impasse over access and benefit sharing arrangements relating to “digital sequence information” (DSI) on plant genetic resources scuppered the most recent round of Plant Treaty negotiations.1 No? Well, this is how I put it at the time:

Some countries, and many civil society organizations, contended … that seed companies would soon be able to produce and market new varieties simply by manipulating genomic data in open-access repositories. That is, without needing to access actual seeds, and thus triggering the ABS provisions of the Treaty. In their view, this is a loophole that should be closed.

Others said that this is far-fetched, and that DNA sequence data needs to be freely available for researchers and breeders to do their work properly, and deliver new, better varieties, faster. Charging scientists for using genomic data, even if a way could be found of doing it, would impede vital research.

I was a bit worried about the binary at the time. It was an easy — though maybe a bit lazy — way to summarize the situation, but surely there was room for nuance? That was brought home to me by a recent paper from the project Wissenschaftliche Lösungsansätze für Digitale Sequenzinformation (Scientific approaches for digital sequence information) from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

In past DSI discussions, a stark contrast has often been presented: either the status quo with an open-access model and extensive non-monetary benefit-sharing but zero monetary benefit-sharing OR a closed-access system with monetary benefit-sharing but dramatically reduced or zero non-monetary benefit-sharing and a loss of open-access. We are convinced that the debate between open access and monetary benefit-sharing is a false choice and that both principles can thrive if innovative ideas and open-mindedness are brought to the table.

And the paper is actually a great contribution to the cause of finding a workable middle way. It’s worth reading the whole thing, or at least the executive summary, but basically, it suggests 5 options:

  • micro-levy
  • membership fees
  • cloud-based fees
  • commons licences
  • metadata & blockchain

I particularly like the micro-levy idea.

Do any data jockeys on here care to share their thoughts?

  1. A recent paper discusses the parallel negotiations in the CBD. []