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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Sunday, April 01, 2007
Posted 11:47 PM by Luigi
Genetic modification of taro plant pits Hawaiians against some scientists
, Sunday, April 1, 2007
HONOLULU: Both scientists and Native Hawaiians want to save the sacred taro plant from an uncertain future, but they strongly disagree on whether genetic modification is the answer.
Native Hawaiians believe the taro, which is used to make the starchy food poi and revered as an ancestor of the Hawaiian people, should not be tampered with. Taro, tall and broad-leafed, rise from paddy-like patches around the islands, and the purplish poi, a glutinous substance avoided by some, is an essential ingredient at Hawaiian luaus.
Researchers say the only way to protect the taro plant from spreading modern plant diseases is to insert resistant genes from rice, wheat and grape crops, altering the basic structure of the plant.
State lawmakers have stalled a bill sought by many Hawaiians that would have placed a statewide moratorium on genetic modification of taro for 10 years.
"How bad do things have to get before those who are anti-genetic modification will admit that taro needs help?" asked Susan Miyasaka, a researcher at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, who has been testing Chinese taro breeds. "The taro farmers are having trouble making ends meet."
About 50 protesters who gathered at a rally at the state Capitol on Friday said they don't want the so-called help that scientists say they can provide.
They question whether genetic modification will be any more effective than traditional crossbreeding techniques, and they worry that genetically modified crops could contaminate their Hawaiian taro breeds.
For some of the demonstrators, the issue about preserving the purity of the taro rather than the scientific merits of genetic modification.
"What we're really angry about is that the biotech industry has turned this into a genetic modification issue," said Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte. "This is about us protecting our family member."
According to Hawaiian legend, the cosmic first couple gave birth to a stillborn child, Haloa, from whose gnarled body sprang the broad-leafed plant whose roots are ground into poi. The Hawaiian people, it is believed, came from a second brother, making the plant part of their common ancestry.
Since ancient Hawaiian times, taro yields have dropped from 48,000 pounds (22,000 kilograms) per acre to 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) per acre, Miyasaka said. Her research with preliminary tests has shown that her genetically modified Chinese taro is resistant to leaf blight, and she hopes to begin greenhouse trials soon.
The University of Hawaii has agreed not to do research on Hawaiian types of taro, and it will be careful to prevent their experimental taro from breeding with native varieties, said Stephanie Whalen, president and director of the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center.
But scientists see no harm in continuing taro research.
"Just because you have research and development doesn't mean you're going to commercialize," Whalen said. "If they don't want it, nothing will happen."
On the Net:
Center for Food Safety: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/
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