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

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Bioprospecting in the Pacific: Who gets to benefit?

    By Bill Aalbersberg, in Island Business. Professor Bill Aalbersberg is Director of USP's Institute of Applied Sciences. IAS aims to help Pacific Islands countries conserve and develop their resources sustainably (http://www.usp.ac.fj/ias/).

    In the Verata district of Fiji, people turn to their Community Trust Fund for scholarship support for local students. In Faleaupo, Samoa, the cost of construction of a primary school was donated by a foundation in return for the community's conservation of their rainforest. Both the trust fund and the school's construction were made possible by bioprospecting.

    Bioprospecting is the collection of plants and/or marine organisms by scientists looking for medicines that could be derived from the chemicals in the collected material.

    Plants that have been used for traditional medicines, in many cases for thousands of years, are targeted. Evidence has shown that scientists have more than 10 times the chance of finding an active chemical in a medicinal plant than in a randomly collected one.

    Besides medicinal plants, particularly valued are marine invertebrates such as sponges, soft corals and sea squirts, which are soft and colourful and move slowly, if at all (thus making them easy to collect), and tend to use strong chemical defences to prevent predation.

    Time, money and expertise

    A large number of medicines we buy at the pharmacy were discovered through bioprospecting. For example, the chemicals vinblastin and vincristine, now used in anti-leukemia drugs, were discovered in the ornamental rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). It is estimated that about one-third of the drugs prescribed in the United States-including aspirin, ephedrine, belladonna, penicillin, quinine, morphine, digitalis and many anti-cancer drugs-contain plant-derived components.

    The process of drug discovery takes about 15 years from sample collection to having a marketable drug, and involves:
    • collection
    • activity testing
    • identifying the active chemical
    • making slight changes to the chemical to see if it improves activity
    • testing for toxicity
    • testing on animals and humans
    It is estimated that only one in 10,000 chemicals investigated ends up as a saleable drug and the cost of coming up with one drug is US$800 million.

    Who gets the benefits?

    A major issue related to the work of bioprospecting is who benefits if medicines are found. In the past, plants and marine organisms were often collected from developing countries by Western researchers and the source country received little in return.

    This neo-colonial “open access” policy was turned on its head by the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity, which gave sovereign rights of biodiversity to the source country but encouraged them to allow access to outside researchers under mutually agreed terms.

    Pacific countries have been slow to develop this so-called “access and benefit-sharing” legislation.

    In the examples cited at the start of this article, it was the collecting group working with the local community who ensured that a wide range of benefits were made available to the source area. Responsible scientists understand the importance of preserving the biological diversity from which the chemicals come, and to further this preservation, they seek partnerships that will allow source communities to undertake conservation efforts.

    Local organisms show promise

    No chemical derived from a Pacific organism has yet been fully developed into a marketable drug. But several are showing promise.
    • A medicinal tree from Samoa called malamala (Homalanthus nutans), has been found to be active against HIV. United States scientists are trying to identify the gene that tells the plant to make the chemical.
    • A district in Fiji has licensed plants and marine organisms for testing in Japan and set up a conservation trust fund of US$30,000 with the proceeds.
    • An orange sponge (Jaspis coriacea) and the makita tree (Atuna racemosa) in Fiji have produced chemicals for medical research. The US company involved is giving 2-5% of the proceeds from sales to support further research in Fiji.
    • A chemical from a medicinal tree in Fiji has been patented as an anti-diabetes drug.
      Chemicals from the sea hare (Dolabella auriculata) and another orange sponge (Jaspis johnstoni) are in advanced human trials for anti-cancer activity.
    • A red algae from Fiji has recently yielded a new class of chemical that is active in killing cancer cells and HIV.

    The Universities of the South Pacific (USP) and Papua New Guinea (UPNG) are playing leading roles in the development of biodiversity by the use of biotechnology, having set up local enterprises to increase local ability to perform the work.

    Both universities have received a prestigious International Cooperation in Biodiversity Grant given by the United States government to partnerships of US and overseas universities working to discover drugs and conserve biodiversity.

    USP is working with the Georgia Institute of Technology and UPNG with the University of Utah, with funding of about US$3 million over a five-year period. USP's Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) has set up a research unit in collaboration with the Regional Germplasm Centre of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), focusing on marine biotechnology such as DNA fingerprinting of sponges and soft corals.

    Collaborations such as these are helping to bring benefits to the people of the Pacific and, ultimately, to the people of the world.

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