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
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Dr Lois Englberger
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Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
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Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
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Mr Finao Pole
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Friday, January 13, 2006
Posted 7:16 PM by Luigi
Hawaiian activists, farmers: UH shouldn't own taro
Ron Mizutani, KHON2 News.
There's another controversy brewing in Hawaii's agricultural industry, and this one involves a plant close to the hearts of many islanders.
Hawaiian activists and some farmers are demanding that the University of Hawaii give up its patents on three lines of taro. They believe the university shouldn't own what's been here for years.
There's a definite shortage on poi, a Hawaiian staple made from the root of the taro plant.
"It's something that has sustained us as Hawaiians," says Walter Ritte, Hawaiian activist.
Taro production has suffered because of diseases, like taro leaf blight, which can wipe out entire fields. UH researchers say that loss in productivity led to experiments and a successful discovery.
"It was a cross between a Palauan cultivar and one from Hawaii, and there's no biotech involved. It is simply taking the pollen from one plant and putting it into another plant," says Janice Uchida, UH plant pathologist.
In 2002, UH was granted patents on three varieties of taro.
"The patent was pursued because in many other universities the college can actually make some royalties, and the royalties from a patent can help to further research," says Uchida.
"I find it incredibly arrogant that the university would take it upon itself to seek patents on a plant like taro," says Bill Freese, biotechnology expert. "The idea that the university has somehow created kalo is ridiculous."
The issues stir strong emotions in Hawaiians, who believe they are direct descendants of the taro plant.
"We have this sacred relationship with this taro and nobody can understand thus far," says Ritte.
"Every Hawaiian links blood-wise to the kalo," says Mililani Trask, Hawaiian activist.
Many are outraged that farmers, who may choose to grow these types of taro, are barred from doing any breeding on their own and must pledge a royalty fee to the university if they sell the product.
"It's inappropriate for someone to get a patent on our food and medicine and then to purport to sell it to us," says Trask.
"These varieties belong to native Hawaiians, they should not be made the private property of the university or any other institution," says Freese.
The university says it wants to protect their product from being reproduced elsewhere. Those against patents say this is a symptom of corporate greed, and in this case robs native Hawaiians of their natural heritage.
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