A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
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Monday, May 30, 2005
Posted 1:53 PM by Luigi
More on Hawaiian taros
Researchers will consult with native Hawaiians on cultural concerns
By Diana Leone Star Bulletin
Hawaiian varieties of taro will not be used in any University of Hawaii genetic engineering research until native Hawaiians advise scientists about cultural concerns, a university dean said yesterday. The promise is an attempt to stave off controversy and foster dialogue between the university and the native Hawaiian community, said Andrew Hashimoto, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
The dialogue is expected to take place through a process being organized by the Royal Order of Kamehameha on all islands. To solidify the promise, Hashimoto signed a one-page statement about the university's intentions with taro research yesterday at a taro patch at the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies. "We have encountered perceptions in the community that CTAHR's taro research focuses entirely on genetic engineering and that the college sells or gives away genetically engineered taro huli (shoots). These perceptions are incorrect," the statement said.
"The CTAHR scientists currently involved in genetic engineering research on taro have no plans to modify Hawaiian taro varieties." The only ongoing genetic engineering of taro at the UH is of a Chinese variety and is being done only in a lab setting, not in greenhouses or open fields, Hashimoto said.
Genetic engineering involves the placement of a gene from one species of plant or animal into a different species. For example a disease-resistant gene in rice could be added to taro. Genetic engineering is much faster than traditional cross-breeding, Hashimoto said. Opponents of genetic engineering worry that open-field test crops could escape test plots and affect native plants or other nongenetically engineered crops nearby, said Kat Brady of the environmental group Life of the Land. But for taro, the cultural factor is an additional concern.
The connection between Hawaiians and taro goes beyond its historical use as a staple food to a "mystical, mythological parable that all Hawaiians are attached," said kumu John Lake, who chanted in Hawaiian, then spoke in English at yesterday's event. "Kalo (taro) is intrinsically part and parcel of Hawaiians and of ohana," he said. In Hawaiian mythology, the gods Wakea and Ho'ohokukalani's first child, Haloanakalaukapalili, was stillborn. When he was buried in the ground, he became the first taro plant, said Nalei Kahakalau, a teacher at the Big Island public charter school Kanu O Ka Aina. The couple's next child, Haloa, was the founder of the Hawaiian people, according to the legend. Visiting students from the Big Island charter school chanted about the legend for those attending the event.
The prospect of genetically altering taro is "kind of scary," said Ernest Tottori, president of Honolulu Poi Co., one of the islands' largest taro growers and processors. For example, taro is known to be tolerated by people with allergies to wheat and rice, but Tottori asked what if it lost that quality under genetic engineering? "You want to be very cautious about anything like that," he said.
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