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, May 29, 2006

    Activists oppose UH's patenting of taro plants

    The university owns the rights to three varieties of the traditional staple

    By Stewart Yerton (syerton@starbulletin.com), Star Bulletin.

    Arguing that the patents were wrongly obtained, local and national activists opposing the patenting of taro plants are asking the University of Hawaii to relinquish the rights it owns for three varieties of the traditional Hawaiian food staple.

    Walter Ritte, a Molokai-based activist, plans to join Kauai taro farmer Chris Kobayashi and representatives of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., for a news conference at UH to air their grievances concerning the university's patenting of the three taro varieties, which are called Palehua, Paakala and Pauakea.

    Issued in 2002, the patents protect the university's ownership rights of the varieties, which were developed by scientists at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The patent requires farmers wanting to grow the varieties to pay a licensing fee to the university, prohibits farmers from selling the seeds and requires farmers growing the plants to let UH officials onto the farmers' property to study the plants.

    But the critics contend that the university should not exercise intellectual property rights on plants that are derived from species that Polynesians brought to Hawaii more than 1,000 years ago. In traditional Hawaiian culture, the taro plant is viewed as a spiritual ancestor, a crop that sustained the people who cultivated and cared for it. Given this context, Ritte said, any kind of genetic alteration, experimentation or patenting of Hawaiian taro is offensive.

    "The taro is not a commodity; the taro is our very person," Ritte said. "It's almost like they're buying and selling us."

    But these cultural issues are not the crux of the argument made by Ritte and Kobayashi. Instead, the opponents argue the patents should not have been issued under U.S. patent law.
    For example, the opponents assert in a statement that the UH patents should be invalid because the plants are not much different from varieties already invented by Hawaiians. Such previous inventions are called prior art in legal parlance, and the existence of prior art similar to the invention can make it impossible for an inventor to obtain a patent.

    Of particular importance to the argument is a variety called Maui Lehua, which was used to cultivate UH's patented hybrid taro plants.

    "The qualities of the patented varieties derive to a considerable extent from Maui Lehua, whose properties are the result of many centuries of breeding efforts by native Hawaiians," the opponents contend. "Thus, the patent claims for the three patented varieties are invalidated by considerations of prior art."

    The statement also claims that the UH scientists failed to validate properties they claimed the taro contained, another essential element to obtaining a patent.

    Finally, the statement takes issue with the several aspects of the licensing agreement, including royalties that farmers selling the taro would have to pay to UH.

    "The collection of royalties from farmers whose taxes already support the university's operations, including taro breeding activities, is abhorrent," the statement said. "It represents a superfluous and unjust levy on Hawaiian taro farmers."

    Although the patents have existed for years, they came to the attention of the activists only recently, said Bill Freese, a scientific consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety, which opposes the genetic alteration of food crops.

    "It's a sign of how these things often take place without public awareness, and I think that once people know that with a plant like the sacred taro plant -- that the University of Hawaii is claiming to own these varieties -- I don't think people will be happy about it," Freese said.

    Andy Hashimoto, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, was not available for comment yesterday. Anya Wieczorek, a biotechnology specialist for CTAHR, said that under university policies, the patents belonged to the scientists and the university's Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development, and that the college would not have the power to relinquish them. Officials of the technology transfer office were not available for comment.

    Last year, Wieczorek said, the university said it would not conduct genetic engineering research on Hawaiian taro until it could set up a process for obtaining guidance from a native Hawaiian advisory committee. No university scientist has expressed a desire to conduct such work, she said, so there has been no need to establish the advisory group.

    GOING FURTHER (compiled by GRAIN)

    Manolo Morales, "Protestors lock UH regents out of board meeting", Khon2, Honolulu, 18 May 2006.

    Jan TenBruggencate, "UH seeks solution to taro patenting", Honolulu Advertiser, 17 May 2006.

    University of Hawaii at Manoa, "Taro patent discussions advancing", UH News, Honolulu, 16 May 2006.

    Jan TenBruggencate, "Many questioning why UH should own hybrids", Honolulu Advertiser, 2 May 2006.

    Center for Food Safety, "University of Hawaii told to give up taro patents", Washington DC, 12 January 2006. [Provides links to further materials: the patents, the licencing agreement and the letter of protest to the University of Hawaii] http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press_release1_12_20062.cfm

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