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?



    Saturday, July 28, 2007

    "no" to junk foods and "yes" to banana chips,"

    From : Sun Star

    THE regional director of the Department of Education (DepEd) expressed gratitude to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Southern Mindanao for making the group one of the cooperators in the implementation of Banana Chips Promotion Program, which was formally launched to public schools Friday.
    Susana Teresa Estigoy, DepEd regional director, said the program is timely, saying it will serve as a response of the department to the call of the government to provide options for the students and pupils and introduce a nutritious and healthy food rather than junk foods.
    We are very glad that DepEd was chosen by DTI as one of the partners of this program, we now encourage the principals, teachers, and the parents to become agents to resolve our problem on how to entice students to choose the food that is healthy for them," Estigoy said Friday.
    "We are now in the midst of our campaign to provide information to the students how they can benefit having banana chips as their snacks. Finally, we should decide to say "no" to junk foods and "yes" to banana chips," she said.
    Estigoy also shared some facts regarding the nutritional value of banana chips saying that it is rich in potassium that prevents high-blood pressure.
    DTI Undersecretary Merly M. Cruz said banana chips will be beneficial both for the industry and for the consuming youth sector.
    The cooperators of the program namely: Department of Health (DOH)-Southern Mindnao, the National Nutrition Council (NNC), and DepEd and Commission on Higher Education (Ched)-Southern Mindanao, on the other hand, have identified their respective concerns, objectives, and goals for the banana chips promotions program.
    DepEd and Ched's concern is to encourage pupils and students to increase the intake of nutritious foods with its comprehensive school health and nutrition service.
    NNC has noted the high intake of foods that are high in fats and sugar, but low in other nutrients; the DOH takes cognizance of the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases and seeks to promote among others, a healthy diet and nutrition; while the DTI's goal is to create more jobs.

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    Preserving paradise: Hawaii’s national botanical garden saves islands’ natural beauty

    From: Boston Herald

    KALAHEO, Hawaii - The National Tropical Botanical Garden offers plenty of beautiful flowers, with three sites on Kauai, Hawaii’s “Garden Isle.” Here visitors can get off the beach and learn more about local flora.

    But one aspect of what takes place at the National Tropical Botanical Garden goes well beyond aesthetics. Resident scientists face the challenge of snatching the Pacific islands’ quickly disappearing plants from the brink of extinction.

    “Most of our visitors to Hawaii look at this beautiful, lush landscape and they just think, ‘It’s paradise,’ ” said garden director Charles R. “Chipper” Wichman, gesturing to the verdant valley stretching out below his office window on Kauai. “They have no idea that what they are viewing is a war zone between our native plants that are trying to hold on to a space and all these invasive plants and animals that are trying to take it away from them.”
    The Hawaiian islands have a wealth of conservation needs and are known among botanists as the nation’s “extinction capital.” About 180 plant species in Hawaii have 50 or fewer survivors living in the wild, Wichman said.
    Conservation at the garden involves locating and identifying endangered plants, raising them in greenhouses and then reintroducing them in the gardens and elsewhere to reconstruct native plant environments and bolster the health of the islands’ many other troubled species.

    At the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s headquarters on Kauai’s South Shore, the public can visit display gardens for free, or buy tickets and hop a tram for tours of the McBryde or Allerton gardens in a valley a couple miles away.

    The McBryde Garden nurtures plants from throughout the tropics, some of which are extinct in the wild. Next door, the formal Allerton Garden was begun by Hawaii’s Queen Emma in the late 1800s and transformed into its current design by a scion of a wealthy Chicago family who purchased the land in the late 1930s.

    The third site, the Limahuli Garden on the lush North Shore, features many native species and stunning 700-year-old terraces for growing taro, known as lo’i kalo.

    In addition to these three gardens on Kauai, the national tropical garden has two other botanical gardens and three preserves, all but one of which - the Kampong in southern Florida - are located in Hawaii.

    Though created by an act of Congress in 1964, the garden does not get annual government funds, depending instead on private donations and grants from public and private foundations.

    Among the garden’s conservation and research triumphs is the alula, on display at both the McBryde and Limahuli gardens on Kauai. Similar in appearance to a cabbage on a stick, the cute, stocky little plant has been grown by the hundreds in the garden. But only one known alula remains in the wild, tucked away on a cliff on Kauai.
    Not all the garden’s tales are so simple or triumphant as the alula’s. The world’s only known wild kanaloa, a humble-looking member of the pea family first scientifically described in 1994, lives on a sea stack off Kahoolawe, an uninhabited Hawaiian island still sprinkled with unexploded bombs after being used for target practice by the military for five decades.

    Guided across the small island by people trained in ordnance detection, two of the garden’s collectors spotted two of the unique plants on a tiny lump of offshore land topped by a piece of native vegetation that had been isolated for centuries from the human-introduced ravages of rats, grazing sheep, farming and bombs.
    The collectors were able to gather samples of the plant after perilously lowering themselves down on ropes. Subsequent visits to the spot have been made by helicopter.

    A lone example of this shrub grown from a seed is rooted in a tub, cordoned off from the public at the spot where the McBryde Garden and Allerton Garden meet. But so far researchers haven’t found a way to produce any more of the enigmatic plant that ancient pollen records suggest was one of the dominant species here for a couple thousand years until the mid-1500s.

    In all, the garden has had a hand in the discovery of 30 new species endemic to Hawaii and the rediscovery of about another 30 thought to be extinct.

    But the garden has more in its sights on the research front than reproduction. It also has an Institute for Ethnomedicine, through which the garden discovered, with the help of traditional Samoan healers, a potential anti-HIV drug currently in clinical trials.

    If the drug proves to be marketable, the Samoan government as well as the village where it was found and the family of the healer who helped find it will get a good portion of the royalties, Wichman said.

    “Our goal is to really try and set the standard for how to work with indigenous people and honor their intellectual property rights,” he said.

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    Friday, July 27, 2007

    A $4.5 million program to improve the nutrition of low-income women and children is being launched in the Northern Mariana Islands.

    From: Pacific Magazine

    The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will open in two weeks, said Acting Governor Tim P. Villagomez, as a press conference today. The program is using a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the nutrition activities.

    “Better nutrition means healthier women and children, and better health means reduced medical cost,” said Villagomez.

    The program will be run by the commonwealth’s Division of Public Health. Children up to five years old who are considered “nutritional risk” are included under this program. This is based on the premise that those children are in their critical period of growth and need better nutrition to help prevent medical and development problems.

    Public Health Acting Secretary Lynn Tenorio estimated that close to 5,000 women, infants and children in the CNMI can benefit from the program. The target population of the program includes low-income, nutritionally at risk pregnant women, breastfeeding women, postpartum women, infants from 12 months old and children up to five years of age.

    Josephine Tudela is the director of the program, which has a 13-person staff. Participants must meet income guidelines, CNMI residency requirements and be individually determined by health professionals as “nutrition risk.”

    Tenorio said the program is opened to all Northern Marianas residents and not just U.S. citizens. She said she expects the number of participants to increase, as the original estimate was made about two years ago.

    “To be eligible on the basis of income, applicants’ income must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines (currently $35,798 for a family of four),” according to a fact sheet. “A person who participates or has family members who participate in certain other benefit programs, such as the Food Stamp Program, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, automatically meets the income eligibility requirement.”

    Two major types of nutrition risk are recognized for WIC eligibility. They include medically-based risks such as anemia, underweight, overweight, history of pregnancy complications or poor pregnancy outcomes, and dietary risks, such as failure to meet the dietary guidelines or inappropriate nutrition guidelines.

    Participants will receive checks or vouchers to purchase specific foods each month that are designed to supplement their diets.

    The WIC program receives all of its funds from the U.S. government. Of the $4.5 million for this fiscal year, $3.2 million will be for food and $1.2 million for administrative cost.

    The program is available in all 50 U.S. states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and 34 Indian Tribal Organizations.

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    University of Hawai'i in Jatropha trials

    From: Star Bulletin

    Unused land on the Waianae Coast and other areas of the state could one day be green with plants grown for fuel to reduce Hawaii's dependence on imported oil.That's the hope of researchers who are trying to determine if biofuel crops have the potential to re-engergize Hawaii's agriculture industry.The University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center are growing test plots of jatropha, a plant that is already being used to make biodiesel in India.But what's yet to be determined is whether the crops will be profitable for farmer.

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    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    World Bank sees support for $250 mln forest fund
    (Tue 24 Jul 2007, 5:55 GMT)

    From : Reuteurs
    SYDNEY (Reuters) - A planned $250 million World Bank fund to encourage developing countries to stop deforestation in return for access to carbon credits has attracted strong international support, a senior official said on Tuesday.

    Forests are not included under the existing emissions reduction framework, the Kyoto Protocol, even though deforestation, especially in the tropics, contributes about 20 percent of man-made global carbon emissions -- some two billion tonnes of carbon per year.

    * Comments:

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    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Guam National Wildlife Refuge developing conservation strategy

    From : Kuam News

    The Guam National Wildlife Refuge is planning for the future, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a comprehensive conservation plan. "The staff here, people that have previously worked here, some of the other local agencies have helped us to identify issues and questions that have come up. We've taken those and have put them into the planning update, explained Guam Wildlife Refuge project manager Chris Bandy.
    He added that concerns raised and information being gathered from residents regarding the comprehensive conservation plan, will give fish and wildlife a clearer picture of what the people want in the CCP. Bandy adds that there are several projects to restore Guam's refuge's to their natural habitat. "We have a project where we're working with Guam forestry, where we're trying to grow through their office, seranthies nelsonia, which is an endangered tree. There's only actually one of them left that actually blooms and produces seeds on Guam," he said.
    Another study project Fish and Wildlife is looking at are our coral reefs. Bandy says this weekend teams from the University of Guam, as well as fishery folks from Honolulu, will devise ideas of ways to monitor Guam's coral reefs and species inhabiting them. For Bandy, his main concerns are being able to work directly with the public to determine what they want out of the CCP. "We know that there are a number of fishermen for example who would like the refuge to be open earlier in the morning and stay open later at night," Bandy continued. "Those are information that we'll get from the public or have gotten from the public that we have to balance out. When might the green sea turtles come ashore and nest and if we have people here too late, will it dissuade some of the turtles from coming ashore in areas that they want to nest."
    Another item also to be considered is allowing residents or suruhano's and surahana's to pick fruit and medicinal plants. Bandy says there are quite a few residents who come to the refuge for that reason. Despite his thoughts of wanting to allow people to pick native fruits and medicinal plants, it's a question that will possibly be up for debate because he's not sure whether the act is considered economic use. For those residents who say, give the land back and let islander's use it freely, Bandy says the refuge is a benefit to our island and providing testimony on the comprehensive conservation plan might help the feds and local residents find some common ground.
    Said Bandy, "Those who wish to submit written testimony on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Comprehensive Conservation Plan, have until the end of August to submit their written testimony. You can also get the documents by checking out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's web site.

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    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Thumbs up for Palau’s taro wine

    From: Radio New Zealand

    There’s been a positive taste reaction by Japanese people to Palau’s new taro wine or sochu. Currently there was only sochu made from cassava and sweet potato, but with the help of Japan donating a wine extracting machine, Palau has made wine from taro. It is made by fermenting rice and yeast for 7 days then adding cooked and mashed taro for another 7 days. The fermented mulch is then distilled and extracted in 3 hours at 50 percent alcohol. Thomas Taro, the vice president of Palau Community College’s agriculture extension school, says Japanese taste testers have given it the thumbs up.
    " The product itself -I guess Palau us the only country doing taro sochu. It has that very unique taste, and that texture to it. It's mild with a distinct taste and aroma, and that's what makes it unique and kind of exotic."
    Thomas Taro says the products economic potential for Palau, is huge.
    (Courtesy of Luigi)

    * Comments:

    Hello. My name is Richard and I am a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I am doing a project on winery design for an architecture design studio and the idea of taro wine really interested me. Are there any website references, books, people contacts or any other sources where I can find more information on Palau's taro wine production?? Please let me know. Thanks!
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    Variation of Pythium-induced cocoyam root rot severity in response to
    soil type

    by : Amayana Adioboa,b, Oumar Oumarb, Maaike Perneela, Simon Zokb, Monica Ho¨ ftea,


    In Cameroon, andosols are suspected to be suppressive to cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) root rot disease (CRRD) caused by the Oomycete pathogen Pythium myriotylum. To determine factors involved in disease suppressiveness, andosols were studied in comparison to ferralsols known to be disease-conducive. Soil samples were collected from six sites of which three were in andosols around Mount Cameroon (Boteva, Njonji, and Ekona) and the three others in ferralsols (Bakoa, Lapkwang, and Nko’o canane). Greenhouse plant experiments were used to assess soil suppressiveness. Soils were artificially infested with two levels of P. myriotylum inoculum (100 and 300 mycelia strands g1 soil) prior to planting cocoyam. Disease severity was significantly higher in ferralsols than in andosols. Andosols
    partly lost their suppressiveness as a result of autoclaving and could recover suppressiveness following recolonisation by their original microflora. Soil microbial groups implicated in the disease suppression were investigated by assessing the effect of fungicide, bactericide,and pasteurisation on andosol suppressiveness. Andosols suppressiveness was significantly reduced following pasteurisation and
    treatment with fungicide and bactericide. The possible influence of microbial biomass on andosol suppressiveness was investigated by comparing microbial populations of suppressive andosols to those in andosols that had lost suppressiveness. A comparative analysis of suppressive and conducive soil properties was performed to identify soil variables, which may contribute to soil suppressiveness. Soil chemical analysis results showed that organic matter content was higher in andosols than in ferralsols. In addition, the content of mineral nutrients such as Ca, K, Mg and N, was higher in andosols than in ferralsols. These soil variables negatively correlated with disease severity. By contrast, sand and clay, which were higher in ferralsols than in andosols, were positively related to disease severity. This study has confirmed the suppressive nature of andosols from Mount Cameroon to CRRD. The results suggest that high organic matter content is likely mediating P. myriotylum suppression in andosols by improving soil structure, increasing soil nutrient content and
    microbial biomass, and sustaining microbial activity. r 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Keywords: Andosols; Ferralsols; Pythium myriotylum; Root rot disease; Suppressive soils; Xanthosoma sagittifolium
    (Courtesy of Luigi)

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    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Plant a tree during the XIII South Pacific Games

    From : Matangi

    Apia, Samoa:It's hoped the spirit of the 13th South Pacific Games in Samoa will branch towards the environment with a 'Play it clean and green' campaign to be launched by SPREP, UNDP and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).
    Over a period of 2 set days during the South Pacific Games athletes, officials, managers and the general public will be given the opportunity to plant 2015 native trees at Tuanaimato National Park situated next to the athletics site at Faleata. 2015 represents the target year established for the Millennium Development Goals.
    This will assist with carbon offsetting to help reduce the carbon dioxide released into the air. Nature has its own method for absorbing carbon emissions through trees and the ocean yet this natural system cannot keep up with the generated levels of carbon dioxide. The planting of more trees around the world assists with the absorption. During the South Pacific Games in Samoa visitors to the nation and it's residents will have the opportunity to play a personal role in carbon offsetting by planting a native tree.Each person who plants a tree during this time will be documented in a 'Tree Ambassador' book, along with receiving a 'medal' to acknowledge their participation. It is also intended that each tree planted will be tagged with a label reflecting the persons name and country. As Samoa counts down to the XIII South Pacific Games, SPREP will be issuing further releases about the 'Play it clean and green campaign'. SPREP, 04/07/07.

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    An exploration of tools and methodologies for valuation of biodiversity and biodiversity resources and functions
    From : Eldis
    How should we value biodiversity?
    Most of the benefits we derive from biologically diverse ecosystems are not traded on markets and thus do not bear a price tag, making it difficult to make informed choices about their conservation and sustainable use.
    This report provides technical information on the valuation of biodiversity. It offers an analysis of valuation methods, including changes in productivity, cost of illness and human capital, cost-based approaches, hedonic analysis, contingent valuation, choice modeling, and benefits transfer.
    To support policymaking on biodiversity, both economic and non-economic approaches are discussed. These include cost-benefit analysis, national income accounts, multi criteria analysis, and deliberative and participatory approaches.
    Based on a set of 13 valuation studies included in the report, the authors identify a need to include decision-making tools that are consensual and participation oriented, particularly when external costs have significant social consequences.

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    Discovery of Exotic banana in New South Wales

    Authorities say the surprise discovery of an exotic banana variety on the New South Wales' north coast is a major threat to the Australian industry. An established stand of seed bananas has been found in remote bushland near the town of Nimbin. Banana growers have offered to pay for the chemical control of the inedible banana, and have contacted the 40 private landowners involved to get their permission. Arthur Akehurst from the Department of Primary Industries says the nine kilometre square stand of plants could be a host for diseases.
    For more on the story : http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/2007/s1974764.htm

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    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    Saving the Banana

    As the banana falls to a devastating fungus, Ugandan scientists launch tests on genetically modified varieties to save a food staple of 500 million people.

    From : Technology Review

    In 2003, I met Geoffrey Arinaitwe, a Ugandan plant geneticist training at Belgium's Catholic University of Leuven--one of the early research centers developing genetically modified (GM) crops. Regardless of what you think about GM food, Arinaitwe had a compelling story: without genetic modification, the main food source of his country and many others in the tropics would die off, impacting the diet of 10 million Ugandans and hundreds of millions more poor people from Brazil to Indonesia.

    Now Arinaitwe is back in Kampala, where he is poised to test the first modified bananas to be planted in Ugandan soil. A researcher at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute,, this shy scientist with a gentle voice and slight build is waiting for GM plants to arrive from Leuven; they are expected within the month.

    In 2003, I wrote a story for Seed magazine about the plight of the edible banana. Since it's seedless and therefore sterile, all bananas come from mutant plants discovered some 8,000 years ago, probably in Papua New Guinea. They have been grafted, or cloned, ever since, and developed into dozens of varieties, colors, and sizes. Bananas are ideal for the developing world because they are compact, easy to grow and transport, and highly nutritious. In these parts of the world, they are eaten raw and cooked and used to make beverages. In Uganda, they are so important that the word for banana, matooke, also means "food."

    Unfortunately, with an 8,000-year-old genome, the edible banana hasn't evolved to keep up with new pests. These include the black sigatoka, a leaf-destroying fungus, which has devastated vast acres of bananas. It cripples plants and reduces output by 50 percent. Close to half the banana crop in Uganda has been afflicted as this fungus spreads around the world.

    Scientists at Leuven have been working to combat the problem. Led by Rony Swennen, a team discovered that inserting a gene from rice provides significant protection for the banana with apparently no danger to either humans or the environment. Because the banana is sterile, it can't get loose in the environment, nor is there a seed allowing Monsanto or other corporations to sell it. In fact, Swennen and banana organizations around the world are prepared to provide the initial plants to farmers at a cost. Once a farmer has the plant, he or she can graft more.

    Another advantage, according to Swennen and Arinaitwe, is that the GM banana greatly reduces the need to use pesticides that fend off the black sigatoka in export crops going to markets in the West. Most Ugandan farmers growing bananas for local consumption can't afford expensive pesticides, but on huge plantations in Africa and Latin America, growers use some of the highest levels of chemicals sprayed in the world to fend off fungi and other pests. This has led to reports of higher than normal instances of leukemia and sterility in growers.

    By the way, organic bananas sold in the West are grown without pesticides. They are raised either in areas unaffected by the black sigatoka or are harvested out of the reduced yields of afflicted plants, further reducing the amount of fruit available to locals.

    None of this convinces opponents of GM foods, who responded to my Seed article with astonishing vitriol and even some personal attacks. I'll leave it to readers to decide if inserting a rice gene into a cloned banana is repugnant and undesirable.

    Almost certainly, though, critics are correct that acceptance of the modified banana may make other forms of GM foods more palatable, so to speak, particularly in much of Africa, which has largely opposed GM crops. As modified corn, cotton, and other crops become more prevalent in the West and elsewhere, it's obvious that GM creep has already begun.

    As for safety, the scientists at Leuven say that their GM bananas are harmless. Now Arinaitwe will test them in Uganda to see if he and the Ugandan government agree. Hurdles remain before a rice-banana hybrid is approved and accepted. Protests are also expected, although in the end the withering, decimated crops that cover hill after hill in this country, which has an entire culture built on the banana, may make this banana update stick. We'll see.
    (Courtesy of Luigi)

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    Evaluating the wild and cultivated diversity

    From: Bioversity International

    The main justification for investing in conserving banana diversity in field and in vitro genebanks is that it will be used, if not today, then one day. But for germplasm to be useful to the widest range of users possible, it is essential to understand its many attributes (botanical, agronomic, nutritional, resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, processing quality, etc).
    Unfortunately, too little is known about the vast majority of banana cultivars, especially rarer varieties that are less marketable or restricted to particular indigenous groups or geographical areas which are coming under increasing more global influences. These trends exacerbate the underutilization of diversity.

    The importance of having data on cultivars is illustrated by the story of the karat banana in the Pacific Island of Pohnpei, Micronesia. The cultivar was languishing in neglect in a few restricted sites for several decades until analysis was carried out on its micronutrient content. The fruit has such high levels of provitamin A carotenoids that it has the potential to play a key role in improving the nutritional status of children in the developing world. Karat has since become an emblem for Pohnpei.

    Screening for nutritional value

    Bioversity has initiated a process of large-scale screening of traditional cultivars and processed dishes for micronutrients—carotenoids, iron and zinc—as part of the HarvestPlus Challenge Programme. Under this initiative, cultivars are being sorted according to the orangeness of the fruit pulp, and further analysed by spectrophotometry and high performance liquid chromotography by partners at the Centre africain de recherches sur bananiers et plantains and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Cameroon, and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.
    Preliminary results suggest that several popular cultivars consumed in Cameroon have more than ten times the carotenoids content of Cavendish dessert bananas. Consuming around two orange-fleshed plantain fruit a day has the potential of providing an adult’s recommended vitamin A requirement. More studies are needed to determine if these carotenoids are retained after cooking or processing, and are actually absorbed and transformed into vitamin A by the consumer.
    Bioversity continues to seek funds and opportunities for characterizing and evaluating a broad range of germplasm for performance and traits as part of the ongoing efforts to rationalize and add value to conservation efforts.

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    From : FAO

    World prices for many food products could increase due to greater demand for biofuels. Long term changes in markets are also due to reduced crop surpluses and a decline in export subsidies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) set this scenario in OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2007-2016.

    The growing use of cereals, sugar, oilseed and vegetables oils for ethanol and bio-diesel are changing crop prices and indirectly through higher animal feed costs and livestock products. In the US alone, annual maize-based ethanol output is expected to double between 2006 and 2016. Added to this are temporary factors like droughts in wheat-growing regions and low stocks accounting for the recent increases in farm commodity prices.

    For more information, contact Erwin Northoff of FAO at Erwin.northoff@fao.org

    (Courtesy of : Mary Taylor)

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    Developing countries seek fair deal on rights

    From: TK Bulletin

    BANDUNG, INDONESIA: 50 developing countries in Asia and Africa called on developed countries to accept a greater measure of international protection for traditional cultural expression (TCE), traditional knowledge (TK) and genetic resources (GRs). The move is aimed at protecting the intellectual property (IP) of developing countries from unfair use by developed countries. The demand came in the Bandung Declaration, made during a meeting of the Asia-Africa Forum on TCE, TK and GRs in Bandung, Indonesia. It seeks to stop the unfair use by developed nations of the IP resources of developing countries and prevent “all forms of misuse, distortion and misappropriation”.

    Indigenous peoples share knowledge in the Pacific

    SUVA, FIJI: Addressing environmental conservation in the Indo-Pacific region is the aim of a three-day First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) and Indigenous Stewards Initiatives (ISI) meeting at the USP Marine Studies Centre, in Suva, Fiji. The meeting is discussing indigenous stewardship in the Pacific region, traditional knowledge and stewardship practices, economics of restoration, land and marine ecosystem and traditional authority.

    PNG: Protecting Traditiional Knowledge

    The debate on the protection and ensuring access to traditional knowledge continues in different forms around the world. Work in the Pacific on a legal instrument for the protection of traditional Knowledge, since 1999, has resulted in the ‘Pacific Model Law for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge’, which was endorsed by the Pacific Ministers of Culture in 2004. PNG is now going through the process of considering it for possible adoption. With the assistance of K33,000-00 from the World bank, the Toimtop Youth (Toimtop: a little village in the East Pomio District of East New Britain) were able to build the Toimtop Bio-Cultural Resource Center. While the Center is multi-purpose, one of its main functions was to document the cultural resources of Mengen and Sulka tribes, and for storage in perpetuity.

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    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Pro-poor conservation

    From: mongabay.com

    A new paper challenges conservationists to focus on improving the livelihoods of rural poor
    Biodiversity conservation is often associated with the protection of charismatic animals and beautiful landscapes. Missing is consideration of the role that biodiversity plays in the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world, who rely on hunting, plant collection, and other services afforded by biodiversity for everyday subsistence.
    A new paper examines this discrepancy and proposes strategies to ensure that conservation strategies can better provide for the needs of populations that are most dependent on its services.
    Writing in Biotropica, David Kaimowitz and Douglas Sheil of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Jakarta, Indonesia, argue that conservation requires a careful balance between preserving species from going extinct and meeting the human needs of some of the world's poorest populations. "For hundreds of millions of people, biodiversity is about eating, staying healthy, and finding shelter. Meeting these people's basic needs should receive greater priority in the conservation agenda," they write. "‘Pro-poor conservation'—that is, conservation that aims to support poor people— explicitly seeks to address basic human needs. Such an emphasis has many potential synergies with more conventional conservation goals."
    So what's the solution?
    Kaimowitz and Sheil say the basic principles of pro-poor conservation include "finding, developing, maintaining, and safeguarding managed landscapes that include adequate areas to serve as sources of fauna and flora for local people, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalized." This entails focusing on areas where "many people rely on declining wild resources with few substitutes" -- often drier places which are more heavily disturbed and have fewer charismatic animal species, like Sub-Saharan Africa and the mountainous areas of Asia and the Pacific. It means allowing the rural poor to make use of buffer zones around strictly protected areas and even establishing special zones specifically for their use. Further, communities should be actively involved in the design, implementation, and enforcement of rules regulating hunting, fishing, and gathering plant material, while limiting outsiders' access to local resources. Kaimowitz and Sheil write that these efforts may involve "the domestication or more intensive management of traditionally wild plants and animals."
    "A pro-poor approach to conservation inevitably implies working closely with communities rather than fencing them out. It goes beyond most (though by no means all) previous ‘community,' ‘participatory,' or ‘development' efforts intended primarily to win local acceptance of other people's conservation agendas," they write. "It involves focusing on the weak and vulnerable, not only the politically perceptive and influential."
    The authors don't suggest that pro-poor conservation will conserve everything; some species will require special efforts to preserve them. In these cases, communities may need to be compensated for forfeiting access to resources in order to protect these species.
    Nevertheless, say the authors, conservation organizations will need to offer real benefits to local people or "retaining public funding or political support from governments in the tropics will prove increasingly difficult."
    "We are not suggesting that species that do not benefit poor people should be allowed to disappear forever. But we are suggesting that conservation can and should address broader, more diversified, and more democratically defined goals, and should recognize and address the needs and aspirations of local people: especially the poor and vulnerable. Such efforts might allow people to live happier and more productive lives, and could also strengthen local support for conserving species for their own sake," they write.
    "For hundreds of millions of people, biodiversity is about eating, staying healthy, and finding shelter. Such needs, in addition to those of the tiger and other endangered species, must also be considered a conservation priority. Clearly it is not a question of ‘either/or,' but rather of finding a better balance."
    CITATION: David Kaimowitz and Douglas Sheil (2007). Conserving What and for Whom? Why Conservation Should Help Meet Basic Human Needs in the Tropics. Biotropica 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2007.00332.x

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    “Loose Fruit Mamas: Creating Incentives for Smallholder Women in Oil Palm Production in Papua New Guinea.”

    By : Gina Koczberski, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.
    World Development 35(7): 1172-1185.


    This paper presents a case study of the introduction of a more gender equitable payment scheme for oil palm smallholders in Papua New Guinea. Women are now paid separately from their husbands for their work on family oil palm plots thereby increasing the economic incentives for women to commit labor to oil palm production. The study incorporates broader local cultural and economic processes in the analysis of intra-household gender and labor relations to explain how the new payment systems successfully resolved intra-household disputes over labor and income. The paper highlights the critical role export firms can play in enhancing women’s access to commodity crop income. Further, the paper demonstrates that by widening the framework of household analysis, insights can be gained into two key questions that have received only limited attention in the literature: the question of why men do not share a greater proportion of cash crop income with other family members; and, the apparent inability of families to resolve intra-household conflicts over income.
    (Courtesy of : Robin Hide)

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    A developing country perspective on recent developments in
    animal breeders and intellectual property rights

    From : The South African Journal of Animal Science


    Animal breeding and genetics have changed markedly, resembling those that have already taken place in the plant sector. These changes are going to be larger with sequenced genomes, transgenic livestock and cloned animals. Animal scientists have now started to protect their intellectual property and these protective measures have alarmed other scientists and the public. The challenge for developing countries is to guard against bio-piracy of their indigenous animal genetic resources, and to safeguard technologies that they have been using. A second concern is the export of genetic material to countries that did not ratify the Convention on Biodiversity. The first operational conflict resulted from a patent on a "Method of Bovine Herd Management". The patent claims rights to a practice that has been public knowledge for nearly 100 years. The novel idea within the patent is the specific mathematical model and procedures developed for analysis of test day yields. Monsanto has recently applied for a series of patents on pig breeding in some 160 countries, whereas researchers in New Zealand and Australia obtained a patent for the Booroola gene. The east African Boran cattle breed has also been patented in Australia. Currently developing countries risk losing their intellectual property on indigenous livestock while research institutions require a stable regulatory framework in which to operate. There should be a balance between the needs of developed and developing countries and interim measures should be put in place in anticipation of the development of a legal framework on animal genetic resources.

    M.M. Scholtz 1,2# and J. Mamabolo3
    1 Post Graduate School in Animal Breeding, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339,
    Bloemfontein 9301, South Africa
    2 ARC – Animal Production Institute, Private Bag X2, Irene 0062, South Africa
    3 Department of Agriculture, Private Bag X138, Pretoria 0001, South Africa

    # Corresponding author. E-mail: elsabe@arc.agric.za ; 2 Corresponding address
    (Courtesy of Robin Hide)

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    Biodiversity Extinction Crisis Conference - A Pacific Response, July 10-12, Sydney (Inaugural Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, Australasia Section)
    From: http://www.biodiversity 2007.com/
    Here is a sampling of PNG and Island Pacific papers that would be presented in this conference (Abstracts via the hotlinks: many others of Australian and NZ focus not included in this list- for further details look at the website ‘Timetable’ menu).
    PNG Papers:
    The conservation work of WWF TransFly Enoch M Ontiri, WWF, Papua New Guinea
    Key Biodiversity Areas in Melanesia Roger James, Conservation International, Australia
    Need for Capacity Building of Papua New Guinean Conservation Biologists Miriam Supuma, Wildlife Conservation Society -PNG Program, Papua New Guinea
    The distribution, abundance and conservation status of the montane frog fauna of Mt Michael, Papua New Guinea Chris Dahl, Conservation International, c/o Wildlife Conservation Society-PNG, Papua New Guinea
    PNG Posters:
    Intraspecific Mammalian Phylogeography: Conservation Connections between Australia and New Guinea Steven G Hamilton, University of NSW, Australia Dr Karen B Firestone, Australasian Conservation Genetics Centre & Uni of NSW, Australia
    Other Pacific papers :
    Restoration potential of tropical dry forest on small islands in Fiji Jennifer E Taylor, Australian Catholic University, Australia
    The Fiji Terrestrial Arthropod Survey Daniel J Bickel, Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia, Australia
    Threats to Pacific island biodiversity - Mounting and interlinked Liz Dovey, The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Australia
    Battle for the Pacific: It's rats vs lorikeets in a fight for survival in eastern Polynesia Mark Ziembicki, The Australian National University, Australia
    Physical habitat factors influencing Fiji freshwater fish species richness and abundance David Boseto, Institute of Applied Sciences, University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji., Fiji Dr Clare F Morrison, Institute of Applied Sciences, University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji., Fiji Aaron P Jenkins, Wetlands International, Regional Office, Suva, Fiji., Fiji
    Nesting ecology and conservation of the Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) Suzanne F Morrison, Australian National University, Australia
    Erosion of the endemic fauna and flora in the islands of French Polynesia: Facing a third wave of extinction? Jean-Yves Meyer, D l gation la Recherche, Government of French Polynesia, French Polynesia
    Islands and island populations: A conservation challenge Mark DB Eldridge, Australian Museum, Australia
    (Courtesy of: Robin HideRMAP, ANU)

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    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    Hidden Trans Fats Exposed

    New Food Labels List Trans Fats

    Once upon a time, only true diet detectives knew whether a particular food contained trans fat, a phantom fat added to thousands of foods that has the most damaging effects on the heart
    and blood vessels. They were the people who knew that the code phrases partially
    hydrogenated vegetable oil" and "vegetable shortening" meant that trans fat lurked in the food.

    Now, thank goodness, anyone can tell. As of January 1, 2006, trans fat must be listed on food labels along with other bad fats (saturated fats) and good ones (unsaturated fats).(1)
    The addition is a victory for Harvard School of Public Health researchers who helped sound the alarm about trans fat in the early 1990s(2, 3) and who advocated that it be explicitly listed on food labels. After much equivocation by the FDA and intense lobbying against adding trans fat
    to food labels by parts of the food industry, the FDA finally approved the addition.

    This small, one-line change is sparking a major makeover of the American food supply. The FDA once estimated that approximately 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers, and 80% of frozen breakfast products contained trans fat.(1) Now that trans fat must be listed on food labels, some companies are scrambling to remove them from their products. Many others have
    already succeeded in going trans free.

    The shift follows the growing realization that trans fats are even worse for the heart and blood vessels than saturated fats.

    Why bother?

    Trans fats are a type of mostly man-made fat that the food industry
    loves, but our hearts and blood vessels don't.

    In the late 19th century, chemists discovered that they could turnliquid vegetable oil into a solid or semi-solid by adding hydrogen atoms to the fat backbone. They did this by bubbling hydrogen gas through vegetable oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst.(4) This was far more than a chemical curiosity. Partially hydrogenated oils don't spoil as easily as nonhydrogenated fats. They can also withstand repeated heating without breaking down.

    These characteristics were attractive to food makers. Over time, partially hydrogenated oils became a mainstay in margarines, commercially baked goods, and snack foods. When saturated fat was fingered as a contributor to high cholesterol, companies such as McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts switched from beef tallow to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil for frying French fries and donuts.
    At the time, switching from butter or lard-both full of saturated fatto a product made from healthy vegetable oil seemed to make sense. Intake of trans fat increased dramatically. Before the advent of partial hydrogenation, the only trans fat that humans consumed came from eating cows (or dairy products), lambs, and deer; in ruminants like these, bacteria living in the forestomach make small amounts of trans fat. But due to the growth of partial hydrogenation, by the early 1990s, trans fat intake in the United States averaged 4-7% of calories from fat.

    In 1981, a group of Welsh researchers speculated that trans fat might be linked with heart disease.(5) A 1993 Harvard study strongly supported the hypothesis that intake of partially
    hydrogenated vegetable oils contributed to the risk of having a heart attack.(3) In that study, the researchers estimated that replacing just 2% of energy from trans fat with healthy unsaturated fat would decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by about onethird.
    An influential symposium on trans fat later in the 1990s drew public attention to the issue.
    Today we know that eating trans fats increases levels of lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol), especially the small, dense LDL particles that are most damaging to arteries. It lowers levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles, which scour blood vessels for bad cholesterol and truck it to the liver for disposal. It increases the tendency of blood platelets to clump and form potentially artery-blocking clots. It also fires inflammation,(6) an overactivity of the immune system that has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
    This four-pronged attack on blood vessels translates into heart disease and death. Researchers estimate that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent between 6 and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths each year--a staggering number, given that there are 1.2 million heart attacks and related deaths in the U.S. annually.(7)

    Big changes

    Some food makers fought the label change because they suspected that consumers, if given a fair choice, would avoid products containing trans fat. (Although it is too early to tell, they are
    probably right.) Fearing lost sales, many food companies looked for ways to make their products without partially hydrogenated oils. Some margarines, such as Promise and Olivio, have been virtually trans fat-free for several years. Frito-Lay now uses trans-free oils for making Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, and other snacks. Tyson Foods has introduced frozen fried chicken products without trans fat. A few grocery store chains, such as Whole Foods, never carried products that contain trans fat. And a few restaurants, like Legal Seafood and Ruby Tuesday's, no longer use partially hydrogenated oils. Oreos are now trans-free, and sooner or later there may even be a trans-free McDonald's French fry, though the fast-food giant has dragged its feet in this race. Back in 2002, McDonald's announced--with some fanfare--that it was voluntarily changing to a cooking oil with less trans fat and that the change would be completed by February 2003.(8) That plan never materialized, and a large order of fries still delivers about eight grams of trans fat. Interestingly, McDonald's has managed to go trans-free in Denmark, where trans fats are banned.

    Keeping track

    Now that the once-ubiquitous but invisible trans fats are listed in bold print on food labels, it's easier to spot them in packaged foods. Keep in mind, though, that according to the FDA, a product claiming to have zero trans fat can actually contain up to a half gram. (Canada set a different standard of zero as under 0.2 grams.) So you may still want to scan the ingredient list for "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" and "vegetable shortening," and look for an alternative product without those words, especially if it's something you eat regularly.
    Take the federal Institute of Medicine's advice and get as little added trans fat as possible. Look for products that don't contain any. This is easier now that more and more companies are
    competing for the attention of trans-free shoppers. It's harder to avoid trans fat in restaurants, since they are not required to provide nutrition information about the food they serve. One strategy is to avoid deep-fried foods, since many restaurants continue to use partially ydrogenated oils in their fryers. You may be able to help change this behavior by asking your server, the chef, or manager if the establishment uses trans-free oils. One final note: Just because a food has been prepared without partially hydrogenated oil doesn't necessarily make it healthy, cautions Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It can be trans-free and still contain a lot of sugar, refined starch, or saturated fat, which isn't a good choice."


    1. Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling.
    Government Publishing Office.
    2. Ascherio A, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Master C, Stampfer MJ,
    Willett WC. Trans-fatty acids intake and risk of myocardial
    infarction. Circulation 1994; 89:94-101.
    3. Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Intake of trans fatty
    acids and risk of coronary heart disease among women. Lancet
    1993; 341:581-5.
    4. Katan MB, Zock PL, Mensink RP. Trans fatty acids and their
    effects on lipoproteins in humans. Annual Review of Nutrition
    1995; 15:473-93.
    5. Thomas LH, Jones PR, Winter JA, Smith H. Hydrogenated oils
    and fats: the presence of chemically-modified fatty acids in human
    adipose tissue. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1981;
    6. Mozaffarian D, Pischon T, Hankinson SE, et al. Dietary intake
    of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women.
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004; 79:606-12.
    7. Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett
    WC. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med.
    2006 Apr 13;354(15):1601-13.
    8. Kaufman M. McDonald's To Give Fat A Break; Fast-Food
    Chain to Use Healthier Oil for Cooking. Washington Post: Sept. 4,
    2002, A07
    9. Sizzling test results boost demand for new soybean oil. Iowa
    State University.
    10. Natreon canola oil. Dow AgroSciences. Accessed December
    22, 2005.
    (Courtesy of : L. Simpson)

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    First NZ conviction for driving under influence of kava

    From: Stuff.co.nz

    A Palmerston North man has become the first motorist in New Zealand to be convicted of driving under the influence of kava. At Palmerston North District Court yesterday Aho Ioane, 53, a forklift operator, pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence of a drug.

    The court was told Ioane produced a negative breathalyser result when police tested him for alcohol after he was seen weaving across the road in his car on the way home from church. His speech was slurred, he had bloodshot eyes and he was unsteady on his feet.
    He told police he had been drinking "Tongan kava" before church.

    The drink is made from the root of the kava plant and is used in ceremonies across the Pacific. It is favoured for its ability to induce dreams or visions and causes a feeling of tranquility.
    When taken to the police station, Ioane was diagnosed by a doctor as being under the influence of a drug to the point where he was incapable of driving.

    He was sentenced to 50 hours of community work and had his licence suspending for six months.

    (Courtesy : Christina Tuitubou)

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