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
Interested in GIS?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Posted 7:13 PM by Tevita
Doomsday Vault for World's Seeds Is Opened Under Arctic Mountain
By Lewis Smith
The Times Online
Wednesday 27 February 2008
Ten tonnes of seeds were deposited hundreds of feet inside a frozen mountain yesterday as part of a scheme to preserve all the world's crops.
Seeds from varieties of potatoes, barley, lettuce, aubergines, black-eyed pea, sorghum and wheat were among the first to be placed in the doomsday vault inside the Arctic circle.
A specially prepared box of rice originating from 104 countries was the first to be deposited in the vault, where it will be kept at minus 18C (minus 0.4F). Thousands more species will be added as organisers attempt to get specimens of every agricultural plant in the world.
Three chambers have been built 125 metres (400 feet) inside a mountain close to the town of Longyear-byen in Svalbard, a Norwegian island about 500 miles (800 kilometres) from the North Pole.
An opening ceremony was conducted at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, as 100 million seeds from more than 100 countries were placed inside. The first day's deposits comprised 268,000 samples and filled 676 boxes.
The project is intended to provide a failsafe against disaster so that if a seed collection is destroyed in its natural habitat there is an alternative source of supply. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is behind the initiative, said that by preserving as many varieties as possible the options open to farmers, scientists and governments were maximised. "The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world's crop diversity," he said.
Many varieties of seed kept in the vault are no longer used commercially but it is possible that they will prove invaluable as world conditions change,.
The facility has been designed to keep seeds safely frozen for centuries and, at 130 metres up, the mountain is high enough to be safe even from catastrophic rises in sea levels. Similarly, amid the worst levels of global warming, in which the permafrost of the Arctic island would start melting, the seeds will be safe for up to 200 years.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, said: "With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilisation."
During the opening ceremony he unlocked the vault and, helped by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Nobel prize-winning environmentalist, placed the first seeds inside. Politicians and experts from around the world attended the ceremony at the vault, which is big enough to store 4.5 million samples, adding up to 2 billion seeds.
Some seeds will be viable for a millennium or more, including barley, which can last 2,000 years, wheat 1,700 years, and sorghum almost 20,000 years. Dr Maathai said: "The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation."
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Posted 8:58 PM by Tevita
Media has role to play on climate change: MP
From : PACNEWS
27 FEBRUARY 2008 HONIARA (Pacnews) ------
The media is partly to be blamed if the South Pacific people are not made aware of the climate changes that affect their daily livelihood, Solomon Island, says Solomon Islands Environment, conservation and meteorology minister Sir Allan Kemakeza, reports The National.
“You are responsible to ensure that the information about climate change must reach the communities in our scattered islands and that information must be understood and used to take actions that are not detrimental to our environment,” he said to the 20journalists from the South Pacific at the opening of a regional workshop in Honiara
The workshop had as its theme Preparing for Change: Development Journalism and Social Responsibility .Sir Allan said the media played an important role in getting across such message on issues that affected people’s lives.
“The message that you portray to the people only becomes useful if it makes them make wise decisions and actions,” he said.
Sir Allan said the lives of the people in the region are threatened by climate change and therefore, the role played by the media is very important . The media has to do this in a way that is fair, constructive and understandable, he said.
Sir Allan said media personnel are the main players in the socio-economic development of their countries and the region, and this work should continue to be carried out.
“The issue of climate change is being given a lot of global attention because of its imminent threat to human existence and environment,” he said.
According to Sir Allan, climate change is already taking place and human beings are responsible for its causes.
“It is the number one threat to global existence, particularly to the very vulnerable small islands,” he said. Climate change together with sea level rise is already affecting the Pacific islands, he said.
Sir Allan also said the partnership between the government and the local media is of prime importance. Therefore, this partnership must be strengthened and enhanced, he added.
He believed this workshop would enhance the role of media in helping to achieve sustainable development in the Pacific Islands with particular emphasis on climate change…….PNS (ENDS)
Posted 1:53 PM by Tevita
FIJI TO ACCEDE TO INTERNATIONAL TREATY ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 26TH 2008 NO:0301/CAB) FIJI TO ACCEDE TO INTERNATIONAL TREATY ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
Fiji will accede to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).
Cabinet based this decision on a submission by the Minister for Lands, Mineral Resources and Environment, Mr Netani Sukanaivalu, on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries, Mr Joketani Cokanasiga.
Mr Cokanasiga said that the ITPGRFA was negotiated in order to address the special problems associated with PGRFA (Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture).
“It was negotiated by 164 countries within the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and its Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, was adopted by the FAO Conference in November 2001, and came into force on 29 June 2004.
“The new Treaty is in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
“The Treaty provides, in particular, for the establishment of a Multilateral System of access and benefit-sharing for plant genetic resources of the major crops of most importance for food security and on which countries are most interdependent.
“The objectives of the treaty are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing benefits derived from their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity for Sustainable agriculture and food security.”
Mr Sukanaivalu said that for PGRFA of these crops, access and benefit-sharing is on the basis of standard multilaterally-agreed terms and conditions, which thereby facilitates the continued exchange of PGRFA, and reduces individual transaction costs.
He said the continued exchange of PGRFA is important to food and agriculture in general and to the Pacific Island countries in particular.
“Many of the staple crops, on which Fiji’s food security depends, originated or have centres of diversity in other regions of the world, examples are taro in Southeast Asia, different species of yams in West and Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and cassava and sweet potato in South America.
“Even when diversity is very high in the Pacific Region (perhaps higher than anywhere else in the world), as for bananas, coconut and breadfruit, material from other regions often includes genetic diversity potentially useful to Fiji but are not found there.”
He said that continued access to PGRFA from other countries and regions is essential to ensure that crops can continue to be improved to achieve food security and that resistance can be found to new diseases or other environmental challenges, such as the recent Taro Leaf Blight experienced in Samoa.
PH : 3301806 EXT 119
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
WEBSITE : www.fiji.gov.fj
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Posted 8:15 PM by Tevita
Crop biofuels 'create carbon debt'
From : info@scidev
Two new research papers indicate that biofuel production can carry an unrecognised cost by indirectly increasing carbon emissions
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Posted 6:34 PM by Tevita
Apart From Used Chip Fat, There Is No Such Thing as a Sustainable Biofuel
Even capitalists now admit the oil crisis is real. But their solutions border on lunacy as they avoid the obvious answer
by George Monbiot
Now they might start sitting up. They wouldn’t listen to the environmentalists or even the geologists. Can governments ignore the capitalists? A report published last week by Citibank, and so far unremarked on by the media, proposes “genuine difficulties” in increasing the production of crude oil, “particularly after 2012″. Though 175 big drilling projects will start in the next four years, “the fear remains that most of this supply will be offset by high levels of decline”. The oil industry has scoffed at the notion that oil supplies might peak, but “recent evidence of failed production growth would tend to shift the burden of proof on to the producers”, as they have been unable to respond to the massive rise in prices. “Total global liquid hydrocarbon production has essentially flatlined since mid 2005 at just north of 85m barrels per day.”
The issue is complicated, as ever, by the refusal of the Opec cartel to raise production. What has changed, Citibank says, is that the non-Opec countries can no longer answer the price signal. Does this mean that oil production in these nations has already peaked? If so, what do our governments intend to do?
Nine months ago, I asked the British government to send me its assessments of global oil supply. The results astonished me: there weren’t any. Instead it relied exclusively on one external source: a book published by the International Energy Agency. The omission became stranger still when I read this book and discovered that it was a crude polemic, dismissing those who questioned future oil supplies as “doomsayers” without providing robust evidence to support its conclusions. Though the members of Opec have a powerful interest in exaggerating their reserves in order to boost their quotas, the IEA relied on their own assessments of future supply.
Last week I tried again, and I received the same response: “The government agrees with IEA analysis that global oil (and gas) reserves are sufficient to sustain economic growth for the foreseeable future.” Perhaps it hasn’t noticed that the IEA is now backtracking. The Financial Times says the agency “has admitted that it has been paying insufficient attention to supply bottlenecks as evidence mounts that oil is being discovered more slowly than once expected … natural decline rates for discovered fields are a closely guarded secret in the oil industry, and the IEA is concerned that the data it currently holds is not accurate.” What if the data turns out to be wrong? What if Opec’s stated reserves are a pack of lies? What contingency plans has the government made? Answer comes there none.
The European commission, by contrast, does have a plan, and it’s a disaster. It recognises that “the oil dependence of the transport sector … is one of the most serious problems of insecurity in energy supply that the EU faces”. Partly in order to diversify fuel supplies, partly to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it has ordered the member states to ensure that by 2020 10% of the petroleum our cars burn must be replaced with biofuels. This won’t solve peak oil, but it might at least put it into perspective by causing an even bigger problem.
To be fair to the commission, it has now acknowledged that biofuels are not a green panacea. Its draft directive rules that they shouldn’t be produced by destroying primary forest, ancient grasslands or wetlands, as this could cause a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Nor should any biodiverse ecosystem be damaged to grow biofuels.
It sounds good, but there are three problems. If biofuels can’t be produced in virgin habitats, they must be confined to existing agricultural land, which means that every time we fill up the car we snatch food from people’s mouths. This, in turn, raises the price of food, which encourages farmers to destroy pristine habitats - primary forests, ancient grasslands, wetlands and the rest - in order to grow it. We can congratulate ourselves on remaining morally pure, but the impacts are the same. There is no way out of this: on a finite planet with tight food supplies, you either compete with the hungry or clear new land.
The third problem is that the commission’s methodology has just been blown apart by two new papers. Published in Science magazine, they calculate the total carbon costs of biofuel production. When land clearance (caused either directly or by the displacement of food crops) is taken into account, all the major biofuels cause a massive increase in emissions.
Even the most productive source - sugar cane grown in the scrubby savannahs of central Brazil - creates a carbon debt which takes 17 years to repay. As the major carbon reductions must be made now, the net effect of this crop is to exacerbate climate change. The worst source - palm oil displacing tropical rainforest growing in peat - invokes a carbon debt of some 840 years. Even when you produce ethanol from maize grown on “rested” arable land (which in the EU is called set-aside and in the United States is called conservation reserve), it takes 48 years to repay the carbon debt. The facts have changed. Will the policy follow?
Many people believe there’s a way of avoiding these problems: by making biofuels not from the crops themselves but from crop wastes - if transport fuel can be manufactured from straw or grass or wood chips, there are no implications for land use, and no danger of spreading hunger. Until recently I believed this myself.
Unfortunately most agricultural “waste” is nothing of the kind. It is the organic material that maintains the soil’s structure, nutrients and store of carbon. A paper commissioned by the US government proposes that, to help meet its biofuel targets, 75% of annual crop residues should be harvested. According to a letter published in Science last year, removing crop residues can increase the rate of soil erosion a hundredfold. Our addiction to the car, in other words, could lead to peak soil as well as peak oil.
Removing crop wastes means replacing the nutrients they contain with fertiliser, which causes further greenhouse gas emissions. A recent paper by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen suggests that emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 296 times more powerful than CO2) from nitrogen fertilisers wipe out all the carbon savings biofuels produce, even before you take the changes in land use into account.
Growing special second-generation crops, such as trees or switchgrass, doesn’t solve the problem either: like other energy crops, they displace both food production and carbon emissions. Growing switchgrass, one of the new papers in Science shows, creates a carbon debt of 52 years. Some people propose making second-generation fuels from grass harvested in natural meadows or from municipal waste, but it’s hard enough to produce them from single feedstocks; far harder to manufacture them from a mixture. Apart from used chip fat, there is no such thing as a sustainable biofuel.
All these convoluted solutions are designed to avoid a simpler one: reducing the consumption of transport fuel. But that requires the use of a different commodity. Global supplies of political courage appear, unfortunately, to have peaked some time ago.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008
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