UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Newsletter from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) - available now on E-mail
The following is the February issue of CGIAR Highlights, published three to four times a year from the CGIAR Secretariat. We are interested in linking up with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others interested in international agricultural research, resource management and sustainable development. You are part of an experiment to see who is out there and if this newsletter is of interest to a larger audience. In addition, there may be future information from the CGIAR Centers that would be of interest to a larger audience. Please help us by responding to the usefulness of such material. Let us know if you would like to see this project continue. If in turn there are others you would like to pass this on to, feel free to do so.
Some of you may be asking, what or who is the CGIAR? Established in 1971, it is an informal association of 40 public and private sector donors that supports a network of 18 international agricultural research centers. Programs carried out by international centers in the CGIAR system fall into six broad categories: productivity research, management of natural resources, improving the policy environment, institution building, germplasm conservation and building linkages with national partners.
The World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are cosponsors of the CGIAR. The Chairman of the Group is a senior official of the World Bank which provides the Secretariat in Washington, D.C. The CGIAR is assisted by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), with a Secretariat at FAO, Rome.
The United States, Japan, and Canada are the leading bilateral donors, followed closely by several European countries. Developing country members of the CGIAR are China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea. Please send requests for additional issues to: CGIARNEWS@WORLDBANK.ORG
Thanks for your interest, Kerri Wright Platais Editor
In This Issue....
* World Bank Holds Conference on Overcoming Global Hunger * Ismail Serageldin Assumes Leadership of the CGIAR * CGIAR Discusses Financial Constraints at Annual Meeting * Mexican Potato Growers Cut Pesticide Sprays 75 Percent * International Experts Debate Patents and Biodiversity Issues * FAO: Continuing the Dialogue on Plant Genetic Resources * Environmentally Friendly Farming the Focus of Symposium * Leadership of FAO Changes Hands
WORLD BANK CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON THE ERADICATION OF HUNGER AND POVERTY
Participants in the recent global conference on hunger organized by the World Bank concluded that hunger is a poverty issue, not a food supply issue. To eliminate hunger, many of the anti-poverty strategies the Bank has been recommending were endorsed, including a balanced development strategy which supports labor-intensive growth.
Overcoming Global Hunger--A Conference on Actions to Reduce Hunger Worldwide, was held November 30-December 1, 1993, in Washington D.C., with widespread participation from anti-poverty groups including some 70 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Ismail Serageldin, the Bank's Vice-President for Environmentally Sustainable Development, was the conference chairman.
World Bank President Lewis Preston stated that the Bank is willing to join other donors in a "consultative group" type of organization to mobilize financing for activities to address extreme poverty. The NGO participants agreed to work with the Bank on a substantive anti-poverty agenda.
"Hunger and malnutrition are the most devastating problems facing the world's poor, the Bank is determined to work forcefully with others to help these people, which is why we organized this conference," President Lewis Preston said in his opening remarks. The conference heard from an impressive array of speakers, including, Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali; Congressman Tony Hall (Democrat-Ohio) whose 23-day fast last April led to the establishment of a Hunger Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives; Botswana's President Sir Ketumile Masire, winner of the Hunger Prize in 1989; IFAD's President Fawzi Hamad Al-Sultan; USAID Administrator J. Brian Atwood; Muhammad Yunus, President of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank; IDB Executive Vice President Nancy Birdsall; Harvard's Lamont University Professor, Amartya K. Sen; and Ismail Serageldin.
The Right To Food
Speaking as a leader of a non-governmental organization (NGO) committed to alleviating hunger, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, told an audience of more than 1,200 "We know that people suffering from starvation are more likely to erupt in civil war, and in a war-torn society, starvation is almost invariably prevalent. The afflictions feed on each other. In fact, we have found that peace, freedom, democracy, human rights [including the right to food], and the alleviation of human suffering are inseparable."
Carter went on to list several "generic problems" which must be overcome in solving the world's hunger problems. One item listed was an inadequate relationship between research emphases and practical needs in the developing world. He referred to Norman Borlaug, who worked 20 years at a CGIAR center, as believing that international agricultural research centers are currently concentrating "excessively on basic research and less on applied research and are therefore less effective than they were five to eight years ago".
Erradication Of Hunger Will Come From Research
Several documents were prepared for the meeting, including a paper produced by IFPRI staff members, Patrick Webb and Joachim von Braun, entitled, "Ending Hunger Soon: Concepts and Priorities." During the meeting President Preston announced that the Bank would support small self-help credit schemes to benefit the poorest of the poor and gave The Grameen Trust a $2 million grant.
Vice-President Serageldin in his closing summary of the conference emphasized the eradication of human hunger and poverty will come through effective research. He cautioned against the danger of becoming complacent, and argued for the need to continue long-term agricultural research.
BANK VICE PRESIDENT ISMAIL SERAGELDIN ASSUMES LEADERSHIP OF THE CGIAR
Producing more food while conserving the environment and reducing poverty in a framework of sustainable development were listed as key goals by Ismail Serageldin, seventh Chairman of the CGIAR, in a message to the CGIAR.
The nomination by World Bank President Lewis T. Preston of Serageldin as CGIAR Chairman was endorsed by acclamation at International Centers Week.
An Egyptian national, Serageldin is the Bank's Vice President for Environmentally Sustainable Development. He is an alumnus of Cairo University and Harvard where he earned a Ph.D. He joined the Bank in 1972.
Serageldin has designed and managed a range of poverty-focused projects in developing countries. He is an internationally published author on economic development, human resource issues, the environment, architecture, urbanism, the Arab world, Islam and culture.
"I am honored to succeed Visvanathan Rajagopalan as Chairman of the CGIAR. The goals of the CGIAR and those of my World Bank Vice Presidency -- Environmentally Sustainable Development -- are complementary.
Increasing the world's supply of food is an imperative, but no less important is the need to develop innovative ways of conserving the environment and reducing poverty, both within a sustainable development framework.
The CGIAR is an enduring example of a successful development program, built on a solid foundation of cooperation between a large group of donors, farmers and national research organizations. In retrospect, the CGIAR has made remarkable contributions to the fight against hunger and poverty. In prospect, it is well equipped to address effectively some of the most pressing problems of development and assist in empowering the world's farmers to become more productive while better managing their resources.
I am eagerly looking forward to my association with the CGIAR."
CGIAR DISCUSSES FINANCIAL CONTRAINTS AT ANNUAL MEETING
CGIAR donors will contribute a range of $295 to $300 million to support programs at 18 international agricultural research centers, CGIAR Executive Secretary Alexander von der Osten announced at International Centers Week, the main annual meeting of the Group held the last week of October.
The estimated funds will be divided among "core" programs ($220-225 million, a drop from the 1993 funding of $224 million) and projects ($75 million, slightly higher than the 1993 figure of $71 million). The indications are, von der Osten said, that some 50 per cent of "core" donors will decrease their support in 1994, 17 percent will increase, and some 33 percent will make no change. Additional reductions are possible, when final figures from all donors are known.
ODA Resources On The Decline
Fluctuations in Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the impact of unfavorable exchange rates were the main reasons for the drop in funding. In response to three years of resource constraints, CGIAR centers have tightened their belts, curtailing their programs and reducing staff strength. A recent review of CGIAR centers indicated an overall reduction of 110 international scientists and some 2000 host country employees, as well as a drop of about 45 percent in training activities.
Facing the prospect that adverse ODA trends will continue, the CGIAR Technical Advisory Committee was asked to examine all center programs and come up with a set of options for restructuring, to be considered at the May 1994 Mid Term meeting of the CGIAR in New Delhi.
Main Decisions Taken
Other main decisions at International Centers Week included agreement that in follow-up to UNCED, a CGIAR Task Force will draw up project proposals covering the sustainability of marginal lands; in situ conservation of genetic resources; and integrated pest management. The Task Force will also prepare an overview of Geographical Information Systems, and review funding mechanisms. All these proposals will be taken up by the CGIAR at its New Delhi meeting.
Progress made in implementing a decision to reduce the total number of centers from 18 to 16 was reviewed at International Centers Week. Implementation is well underway. The earlier decision, taken at the May 1993 Mid Term held at San Juan, Puerto Rico, affects the management of livestock research and banana/plantain research. Livestock research is to be consolidated into a single, new entity, the Center for International Research on Livestock (CIRL) by January 1, 1995.
Banana/plantain research is to be brought under the management of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) before the CGIAR meets in May 1994.
Other highlights of International Centers Week included an analysis of world food trends by Mr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of IFPRI; panel discussions by non-CGIAR specialists on intellectual property rights and plant genetic resources; and the Sir John Crawford Memorial Lecture delivered by Mr. Gus Speth, the new Administrator of UNDP, who spoke on the theme of food security.
The "International Centers Week Summary of Proceedings and Decisions" is available from the Information Service of the CGIAR Secretariat.
POTATO GROWERS CUT PESTICIDE SPRAYS
By Jack Keyser
Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico--In the fertile irrigated fields surrounding this city 235 miles northwest of Mexico City, farmers raise two potato crops each year for the country's metropolitan markets. Of the two, it is the winter crop of white-skinned tubers preferred by Mexican consumers that has spelled the financial difference between a so-so year and a good one.
But this off-season crop is vulnerable to a wide range of pests and diseases, particularly the potato tuber moth, rated as the top enemy of the potato in the developing world. Until recently, the first line of defense against the moth was increasingly heavy doses of chemical pesticides. But continuing crop losses have led area farmers to adopt integrated pest management measures that rely on a mix of environmentally safe methods and minimal chemical sprays.
The potato preferred by Mexican consumers is Alpha, a variety developed in Europe more than 50 years ago. Despite its popularity, growing Alpha in a two-crops-a-year cycle is a highly risky venture. "Because it's late maturing," says Jose Luis Fox Quesada, a major grower, "we have about a 10-day window at the beginning and end of each of the two growing seasons to escape frost or rains. It's a risk."
Alpha is also highly susceptible to pests and diseases. Increasingly heavy infestations and subsequent crop damage from pests, particularly the potato tuber moth, led farmers to increase the use of pesticides to control them. In 1990 farmers were applying a kind of "pesticide cocktail," a mixture containing as many as three different chemical compounds, many of them banned in more industrialized countries.
Problems Creat Pesticide Treadmill
But the moth problem, rather than improving, only got worse. In a counterattack, growers increased the number of sprays to as many as 20 a season--running up a collective pesticide bill of about $7.5 million a crop. By the winter crop of 1991 the indiscriminate use of pesticides reached a point where spraying was having virtually no effect on the moth. Aphids and whiteflies also began attacking the crop because the insects that were once the natural enemies of these pests were either killed or rendered harmless by the sprays.
The Leon potato growers were caught in a situation of using more chemicals, more often -- some as many times as once every three days-- with steadily diminishing results. The situation is referred to by entomologists as being on a "pesticide treadmill." In desperation, the Guanajuato Potato Growers Association (Union Agricola Regional de Productores de Papa del Estado de Guanajuato) asked the International Potato Center (CIP) for assistance.
CIP sent entomologist K. V. Raman and agronomist Jose Luis Rueda to assess the situation. What they found were potato farmers with capital investments of up to $500,000 in a state of frustration.
"They were virtually spraying at the sight of a moth," notes Raman, who now works at Cornell University. "The situation was so bad that potato production in the area was on the verge of collapse had farmers continued unrestricted spraying."
Sex Pheromones To The Rescue
Although most farmers were aware of integrated pest management (IPM) as a method to check potato pests and diseases, they lacked confidence in the system. The assumption of IPM is that no single pest control program is totally successful, but that a variety of methods can provide environmentally safe, long-lasting, and money-saving control. Among these are the use of pest- and disease-resistant varieties, farming practices to reduce pest losses, and measures to preserve natural enemies of the pests. Chemical pesticides are used only when absolutely necessary.
In April 1991, scientists from CIP and the Mexican Institute of Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIFAP) met with 70 area potato farmers to assess the Guanajuato situation. During a 10-day period the group mapped out a set of IPM recommendations, ran training sessions instructing farmers how to snuff out the life cycle of the potato tuber moth safely using low-cost sex pheromone traps, and practical farming practices such as removal of dead vines and hilling up soil around the plant.
Sex pheromones, naturally occurring compounds common to most insects, can be extremely effective in detecting pest infestation levels. Female pheromones of the potato tuber moth are used in plastic traps to attract male moths. This allows growers to monitor potato tuber moth infestations so insecticides are only applied when absolutely necessary. This process, in turn, has led to the restoration of the natural biological balance in many fields whereby other potato pests are controlled by beneficial insects that were previously killed by the sprays.
Spraying of Chemicals Cut By 75 Percent
Before he established an IPM program, Fox says he was spraying pesticides from 14 to 20 times during the winter crop season. This year, he notes, he has slashed pesticide applications by 75 percent, to four or five passes a crop.
Leon farmers say the cost of producing a hectare of potatoes used to be about $8,000. Before they incorporated integrated pest management practices, 18 percent -- or $1,500 -- of the $8,000 cost was for pesticides. Today, with a combination of IPM practices, the pesticide cost has been reduced to $560 a hectare.
Ramiro Rocha, an entomologist with INIFAP who has worked with potato farmers in establishing integrated pest management programs in the area, says a 1992 survey at three Guanajuato locations showed that where farmers used IPM measures during the irrigated winter crop, they were able to cut their pesticide spray schedule from 20 passes in 1991 to six in 1992.
Growers Ignacio Gonzales Alvarez and Ricardo Romero say that at first many growers kept away from IPM from fear that it wouldn't work. They didn't want to gamble on losing part or all of their crop. Now growers are gaining confidence in the methods. Gonzales notes that not all growers are using IPM. "Once we have widespread IPM practices in use in the Leon area by members of the potato association," he says, "others will follow. Then the natural control of the potato tuber moth and other pests will increase in effectiveness."
Jack Keyser, a freelance writer, produced this story on assignment in Mexico for the International Potato Center.
INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS DEBATE PATENTS AND BIODIVERSITY ISSUES
Patents and biodiversity issues came under critical scrutiny when representatives of sometimes conflicting viewpoints stated their cases at panel discussions on intellectual property issues and plant genetic resources on the opening day of the CGIAR International Centers Week 1993. Discussions took place against the background of the current debate on these issues within the international development community.
Many commentators view the problems as "North/South" issues -- with the rich industrial or developed countries of the north cashing in on genetic material originally found in the developing countries of the south. Others see the trends surrounding this debate as inevitable: a situation that countries must acknowledge and join in, or be left behind.
The CGIAR took the opportunity to hear a range of views on these subjects. Acknowledged experts exchanged views on topics, programs, and trends directly relevant to the CGIAR.
Expert Panelists Respresent Wide Range of Opinions
Intellectual Property Issues -- John Barton (Stanford), Simon Best (Zeneca A.V.P. Seed Company), David Cooper (NGO representative), Norah Olembo (Kenya), and Lukas Brader (IITA).
Plant Genetic Resources -- Geoffrey Hawtin (IBPGR), Pat Mooney (RAFI), Norah Olembo (Kenya), R. S. Rana (India), and Henry Shands (USDA).
The first panel on intellectual property rights, presented a wide range of information and viewpoints that lead to an equally diverse and interesting discussion.
Issues included what the" era of patents" might mean for the CGIAR, how developing country governments are responding to the changes of doing business with private industry and the appropriate role for the CGIAR. The NGO presentation urged that CGIAR centers should serve as advocates against the patenting of genetic resources. This would further champion the well being of the small scale farmer. Private industry countered with examples of different forms of collaboration between developed and developing countries, which serve to the advantage of both. Reference was also made to the advancements in science which lead to the patenting of genes.
Whether one likes it or not, the era of patents has come. Important materials are being patented and it will be necessary to ensure that the centers have access to them. The issue is not whether one argues for or against patents, but rather how to operate effectively in this new era to ensure that developing nations benefit from the most useful technologies. Barton
The concept of free access to genetic materials is noble, and in the past has assisted developing countries to acquire materials from CGIAR centers for their food programs. But what will happen if plant material is obtained by a developed country company from the CGIAR centers, is genetically improved, and then protected through patents? This protected, modified form of plant material would then be accessible to the original country at a cost. So what went out free, would return with a price tag. This is going to be the crux of the matter and should be critically investigated. Olembo
Complex Issues and Arguments
On behalf of the CGIAR, Lukas Brader (IITA) said that center directors were continuing to examine the many complex issues involved, in consultation with national agricultural research systems in developing countries and NGOs. Center directors had adopted a set of principles which affirm that the centers hold plant genetic material in trust for the world community; that the centers adhere to the principle of unrestricted availability; and that the centers will not seek protection for naturally occurring genes.
The centers have been discussing for some time the possibility of bringing their collections within the FAO framework of ex-situ base collections. This would confirm that the collections are part of the worldwide efforts to conserve plant genetic resources and would provide additional security for their safety. It is anticipated that this process will be completed in the course of 1994.
The discussion among the CGIAR members which followed was lively and as broad in scope as the panelists' presentations. Statements were made by regional representatives confirming the dilemma that developing countries confront when negotiating licensing rights from companies holding specific patents. In many cases this is difficult, as shown by recent patents on cotton (that were referred to by a panelist). One member asked the CGIAR to make guidelines available for countries that have not yet developed their own policies.
Several speakers said that they oppose the patenting of food crops, and would like to see the CGIAR support this position. Further discussion was given to gene patenting. As one member put it, "Genes can be discovered, and discovered genes can be combined, but genes cannot be invented, and if they cannot be invented, then a very basic condition for patenting is just not there."
Barton responded to this argument by citing the example of a firm that identifies a particular gene in some background, sequences it and claims that gene. "If you look at those patents," he said, "what is actually claimed, the actual monopoly, is the gene sequence. These patents do not effect the gene in its natural background. There is nothing that keeps breeders from using it, as use in this form is not considered novel."
The use of material transfer agreements was suggested as an effective means for the CGIAR to engage in research with both developed and developing country partners.
Second Panel Focuses on Plant Genetic Resources
The presentations from the second panel members on plant genetic resources addressed the global role of the CGIAR in preserving the genetic material held in centers genebanks. This material has been freely accessible to all, over the last 20 years. It represents years of collaborative collecting by the centers and the national programs.
The dynamics of this relationship were discussed in light of the changes taking place in several international bodies such as FAO and the now ratified and effective Convention on Biological Diversity.
The panelists challenged the CGIAR to consider its role, given these and future changes. Henry Shands asked what can the centers do to ensure the safety and free access of the genetic material in the next 28 years and beyond? How will the CGIAR take on added responsibilities within the international community, given the decreasing funding available for international agricultural research?
Pat Mooney pointed out that despite all the work that went into the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), the world's population at large still does not realize the importance of plant genetic resources within the context of biological diversity.
Regarding the Convention on Biodiversity:
"Somehow the world community ended up with a Convention which encourages bilateralism, encourages the bartering of biological diversity and the beggaring of most developing countries as they face off against an international company or group of companies - in order to try to get some advantage for the biological diversity they think might have some value." Mooney
Mooney urged both the CGIAR and NGOs to work out more effective modes of cooperation. He urged too that the CGIAR come together as a system in a more transparent way, and take its place at tables with FAO and other intergovernmental bodies - to solve the problems of misunderstanding on genetic resources.
The CGIAR Response
Geoff Hawtin (IPGRI, formally IBPGR) provided a summary of recent events within the CGIAR system. He agreed that the CGIAR has a way to go as a "system". He reported that a meeting of the intercenter working group on genetic resources took place in Addis Ababa earlier this year. The group looked at its own mandate and came to the conclusion that it should look beyond plant genetic resources to include biodiversity issues of livestock and fish as well as plants, including forestry. In the future this working group will address all issues related to genetic resources.
In addition, the CGIAR plans to participate in the FAO Conference on Plant Genetic Resources due to be held in either 1995 or 1996. (please see box this page)
During the ensuing discussion, members of the CGIAR said they were pleased that important issues on genetic resources and biodiversity were being discussed in an open forum. Others were glad to hear that the work of the system will now include the genetic resources of fish and animals.One member hoped to see a coordinated effort by the system on three levels: first, a system-wide policy on plant genetic resources and intellectual property rights that goes beyond the broad guidelines; second, a coherent implementation of such a policy; and last, a strong presence by the CGIAR as an apolitical institution in international negotiations.
The viewpoints expressed will be taken into account at discussions within the CGIAR as it develops its policies in both areas.
FAO: CONTINUING THE DIALOGUE ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES
The Convention on Biological Diversity, which went into effect in late December, is now set to provide the international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity worldwide. This Convention, however, left at least two genetic resource-related matters unsettled, specifically, access to ex-situ collections not acquired in accordance with this Convention and farmers' rights.
The FAO is planning a process to address these outstanding issues. According to the most recent FAO Conference, this process includes a planned revision of the voluntary FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and the convening of the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources. The latter will include an involved preparatory process certain to be of interest to members of the CGIAR.
FAO will ask countries to prepare reports on the status of plant genetic resources and national capabilities for conserving and using them, which will be presented at a series of regional meetings around the world. FAO also will establish an interactive communications network to facilitate discussion of key technical and policy matters. The final product: the production of the first Report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources, will provide the basis for the development of a Global Plan of Action.
The FAO Conference noted that these program elements would be "major components of FAO's contribution to, and role in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity...." The Fifth Session of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources agreed that the Global Plan of Action and the revised FAO Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources be considered at the International Technical Conference to be attended by prominent people from FAO member countries. The results, if appropriate, could be presented to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, as a possible protocol.
Contact persons for the above activities are:
Dr. Cary Fowler International Program for Plant Genetic Resources (4th International Technical Conference) FAO
Dr. Jose T. Esquinas-Alcazar Commission on Plant Genetic Resources FAO
ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY FARMING THE FOCUS OF SYMPOSIUM
"Cassava farmers are among the world's poorest, and few can afford to control pests with chemicals. Pesticides also worsen pest problems by killing off friendly insects that prey on or parasitize cassava pests", reported Anthony Bellotti, a CIAT entomologist, at a symposium held in Washington D.C., October 21, "Cutting-Edge Science for Earth Friendly Farming" sponsored by the Public Awareness Association of the CGIAR and chaired by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Director General of IFPRI.
The symposium gave scientists from six international centers; International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT), Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP), and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), the opportunity to share innovative research findings in integrated pest management.
IRRI Study Finds Hazards For Farmers Households
Ken Fischer of IRRI reported on a major new study on the health effects of pesticide use on rice farmers. Researchers at IRRI, headed by agricultural economist Prabhu Pingali, studied 152 rice farmers in three Philippine provinces for a two-year period. The study has wide implications for developing countries where there is little education about appropriate pesticide use. It found that inadequate storage, unsafe handling practices, short intervals between pesticide spraying, and inefficient sprayer maintenance create enormous exposure to chemicals by farmers and their households. More training and information campaigns on proper pesticide management are needed to lower health risks.
IITA scientist Hans Herren introduced a new method to control locusts and grasshoppers using a natural fungal spray that does not harm other organisms. The formulation is prepared with inexpensive ingredients that are readily available in most parts of Africa and developing nations elsewhere. When they are infected by the fungal preparation, locusts and grasshoppers die within four to ten days. "The world has urgently needed an effective weapon against these insects said Herren, director of IITA's Plant Health Management Division. "Until now, dieldrin -- an insecticide so environmentally destructive, it has been banned in many countries -- has been the method of control. Less potent insecticides have not been able to control these insects adequately, and therefore have required more frequent application, creating more environmental risk."
ICRISAT reported that a variety of pearl millet has retained resistance to the deadly fungus known as downy mildew for more than 11 years. Downy mildew is a fungal disease that grossly alters plants by destroying the grain. Since 1968 it has been responsible for the loss of a crop fundamental to the survival of the population in the driest parts of India. Don Blyth, head of the Cereals Program, reported that ICRISAT has focused on raising the pearl millet yields while maintaining resistance to downy mildew. As a result, people in the most marginal areas of the semi-arid tropics have had an estimated $54 million worth of extra food each year. He said the disease has been defeated, but vital research is continuing to find the genes that can provide permanent resistance to downy mildew, even in a hybrid.
Avoiding Another Irish Potato Famine
Disturbing news was given by Hubert Zandstra, Director General of CIP, new outbreaks of a form of late blight fungus, the disease that caused the 19th century Irish potato famine. According to Zandstra, the disease is a major threat to potato producers in both the developing and industrialized world. Experts believe that the disease spread from Mexico to Europe in the late 1970s, and was then exported through the sale of infected potato seed. He stated that emergency breeding efforts are needed, which would include researchers from all affected countries and private industry. CIP has developed several breeding lines that have proved to be resistant in Mexico, where late blight populations are most diverse.
LEADERSHIP OF FAO CHANGES HANDS
Jacques Diouf (55), of Senegal is the new Director General of FAO, a CGIAR cosponsor. He has specialized in agriculture and management during his studies and practical training in Senegal, France, and the USA.
Diouf, who has led his country's delegation to numerous world conferences, has had a distinguished national and international career in politics, diplomacy, institutional management and international development.
He is well known to the CGIAR. The founding head of WARDA, he has served on the boards of trustees of ISNAR, ICRAF, and IITA (current). Delivering the Sir John Crawford Memorial Lecture in 1989 on the topic "The Challenge of Agricultural Development in Africa," he made the plea: "Let us collectively make sure that Africa, the continent which saw the emergence of man, does not in the next century, for lack of food, become a desert of starvation."
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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