Science & Technology

Rejoinder: ‘One CGIAR won’t alter international germplasm collections’

The One CGIAR transition process was born of a recognition that the evolving, interconnected global challenges facing our food systems require a unified and integrated response

 
By Lotte Pang
Published: Monday 26 September 2022
Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

This is a statement from CGIAR in response to the story ‘Largest public collection of unique plant germplasm in the world up for private takeover’ published on the DTE website September 20, 2022.

On September 20, Down To Earth published a news story titled ‘Largest public collection of unique plant germplasm in the world up for private takeover’ on its website.

The piece repeats many factual inaccuracies about CGIAR that were included in the letter from Michael Fakhri, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right To Food. 

It is regrettable that we were not asked for comment on the article, but in the interest of correcting some of the factual inaccuracies, we are requesting that our official statement be added to the article as follows:  

CGIAR respectfully takes this opportunity to correct a number of factually inaccurate claims made about access to the genebanks that are managed by Centers within the CGIAR system, and about CGIAR’s reform process.   

The One CGIAR transition process will not alter in any way the conservation, distribution, availability and sustainable use of the international germplasm collections held in trust by CGIAR Centers. 

None of the changes outlined in the transition process provide additional influence to private corporations over CGIAR’s work, nor do they reduce the role and influence of host countries, which will maintain their roles on Center Boards.  

The germplasm collections held in trust by CGIAR Centers operate under the policy guidance of the governing body of the International Plant Treaty, in line with ‘Article 15’ agreements that each of the Centers signed with the governing body.

All Centers remain committed to fulfilling their obligations under their Article 15 agreements. 

CGIAR’s commitment to supporting Centers’ continued ability to execute their Article 15 responsibilities is reflected in the fact that the CGIAR finance plan guarantees support to the core operations of Article 15 collections managed by CGIAR Centers included in the One CGIAR governance arrangements.

To date, CGIAR genebanks and breeding programs have distributed over six million germplasm samples through more than 60,000 transfer agreements under the Plant Treaty system. That equates to 400,000 samples a year, or more than 1,000 samples a day. In 2021 alone, we distributed germplasm samples to recipients in over 110 countries. 

Our Genebanks Initiative — and other newly created CGIAR Initiatives — enable us to continue and boost these efforts to safeguard agrobiodiversity and provide thousands of users with access to germplasm. 

Through the transition to a more unified and integrated One CGIAR, our Centers and genebanks will be able to expand their research and innovation, and their support for strengthening capacity of national programs, while at the same time continuing to distribute germplasm to recipients around the world working to advance food security and agricultural development.  

Both the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Global Crop Diversity Trust have been extensively engaged during the One CGIAR transition. As set out here on CGIAR.org, the FAO has an ‘active observer’ seat on the CGIAR System Council and has been closely involved in the One CGIAR transition process.

Similarly, CGIAR has worked closely with the Global Crop Diversity Trust throughout the process, including as part of the design and launch of the CGIAR Genebank Initiative.  

The One CGIAR transition process was born of a recognition that the evolving, interconnected global challenges facing our food systems require a unified and integrated response from the world’s largest publicly-funded agricultural research network. 

The reforms strengthen CGIAR research centers, boosting their capacity, reach and impact while honoring their constitutions, country hosting agreements, and legal obligations in both letter and spirit.

Throughout the transition, from the early design process through to the present, CGIAR’s regional and country constituencies have provided strong and consistent support for the process.

That is because the One CGIAR transition offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our organization so we can deliver the science and innovations needed to tackle the many threats related to food, land and water and deliver a food- and nutrition-secure future.” 

Lotte Pang is Managing Director, Communications and Outreach, CGIAR, and based in Rome

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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