UN conference delegates visit CIAT genebank

30 March, 2010 by (comments)

Delegates from a United Nations (UN) meeting on genetic resources have visited CIAT’s genebank to learn more about the institution’s role in protecting and conserving plant material and its commitment to making it freely available to plant breeders and researchers around the world.

The 40-strong delegation was part of the UN’s Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Cali, Colombia, last week. The event attracted around 500 participants from governments, indigenous and local communities, civil society, research institutions and businesses. It resulted in the creation of a draft protocol on access to and sharing of genetic resources which they hope will be adopted at the UN Conference on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010.

CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program leader Daniel Debouck was delighted to host the delegates from the working group on access and benefit sharing, giving them a tour of the genebank, and an insight into CIAT’s policy on the conservation and sharing of genetic material.

“Plant samples in our genebank contain many useful traits that can help scientists develop improved crops,” he said. “As well as protecting and conserving this material, it needs to be accessible for further research – both within CIAT and beyond. That’s why we are committed to making this material available – for free – to scientists and farmers around the world.

With an unrivalled collection of over 65,000 unique samples of bean, forage and cassava material, CIAT’s genebank is one of the largest in the world. The institution has an agreement with the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to conserve the biological heritage of 141 countries, and to distribute samples with the help of a standard material transfer agreement or SMTA.The genebank has distributed well over half-a-million samples to recipients in 135 countries, free of charge. It also provides access to information about the samples, such as the results of characterization and evaluation studies.

“By protecting, conserving and sharing this biological heritage we’re making sure that we are doing all we can to help those working to solve some of the greatest agricultural challenges of our time,” he said.

CIAT recently sent its third consignement of duplicated seeds from its genebank to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway – click here to read more and to watch a short digital story about the shipment.

Daniel Debouck also features in the latest edition of Geneflow magazine.

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Filed Under: Crop diversity, Inside CIAT, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions