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?



    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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