Non-Ethical Distribution to Japan of Yacón (Smallantus sonchifolius) Conserved in Custody at CIP

Non-Ethical Distribution to Japan of Yacón (Smallantus sonchifolius) Conserved in Custody at CIP

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By Dr. Zosimo Huaman

The procedure chosen to dispose of the garbage has been the disposal of the same in low areas, flooded, through the creation of sanitary landfills.

Yacon (Smallantus sonchifolius Poepp. & Endl. H. Robinson) is a domesticated plant that is little known but has been cultivated in the Andean region for many centuries. It is postulated that its center of origin would be located in the eastern valleys of the Andes, from the Apurímac river basin (12 ° S) in Peru to the La Paz river basin (17 ° S) in Bolivia. The greatest genetic diversity of this crop has been found in southeastern Peru, in the valleys around Cuzco and east of Puno. 1, where many native varieties selected by farmers are still found. This crop produces sweet and crunchy storage roots that in the Andes are eaten fresh as if it were a fruit. Its high fructose content makes it a very interesting source of natural sweeteners with a high percentage of inulin 2. Its leaves would also have antidiabetic properties 1. All these attributes of yacón make it one of the "lost crops of the Incas with the potential to be cultivated worldwide" 2.

In November 1999, five native varieties of yacón that are kept in custody in the gene bank of the International Potato Center (CIP) located in Peru were distributed to Japan in violation of ethical principles. These genetic materials come from Peru and are identified with the following CIP codes 205002, 205004, 205009, 205028, and 205029.

In an electronic message sent to CIP employees to justify such sending, Dr. Wanda Collins, Deputy Director General for Research, stated: "In November 1999, CIP received a request through INRENA to provide yacon germplasm to a delegation of visitors from Japan. We stated that we could not deliver this material without an import license and a phytosanitary certificate. These are CIP requirements for the distribution of material internationally. We also informed them that we were unaware of the phytosanitary status of said material , and that although in the past we had distributed this material, we preferred not to provide it for international distribution if we did not know that status. Therefore, we were not able to meet Japan's request for direct distribution. We stated to INRENA that CIP I would be pleased to provide the yacon material directly as soon as Japan made us was to get the relevant documents. " This last sentence clearly demonstrates that the genetic materials would have been sent to Japan if the application were accompanied by the import permits from Japan and the phytosanitary certificate from Peru, thereby violating the rule that says "CIP will not dispatch germplasm that does not is free of pathogens, for which they are routinely checked. " (see the bottom of page 6 of the CIP document on "Genetic Resources, Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Rights 3). There is no publication in which CIP advertises virus-free varieties of yacon.

For more than 20 years, all shipments of genetic resources from CIP were made with the knowledge of the Quarantine and Germplasm Committee. Dr. Collins created the Germplasm Acquisition and Distribution Committee (GADC) and she has been its chair. Since she joined the CIP, she has always had the last word in everything concerning genetic resources conserved at CIP. She also nominated Dr. Noel Pallais as head of the unit in charge of germplasm distribution with full power to approve routine distributions. Dr. Noel Pallais made public at CIP his disagreement about the fact that the yacón genetic resources that were delivered to INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources of Peru) were actually sent to Japan. He presented the documents confirming the receipt of the genetic materials by Mr. Eiji Kaise, Mayor of Nakaizu. Mr. Kaise indicated that the Peruvian yacon varieties were being propagated at the Tagata Prefectural School of Agriculture. About this, Dr. Collins said in an e-mail that she sent me: "Those documents are addressed to Peru and they confirm their receipt of the shipment made by Peru; they do not mention the CIP or the receipt of any material sent by the CIP. That is what an official of the Japanese program of genetic resources has indicated. "

As the former head of the CIP gene bank, I was a member of the Quarantine and Germplasm Committee for many years. Due to my discrepancies with the changes in the CIP rules related to genetic resources, I remained estranged from the GADC. The GADC meetings were used only to inform us of the decisions made by Dr. Collins. At the monthly GADC meeting following the distribution of yacon to Japan, Dr. Pallais asked to discuss this matter and Dr. Collins did not allow it. She challenged him to present evidence that the shipment went to Japan. She insisted that in the CIP records these materials were for INRENA. In an email to me she says: "Dr. Pallais did not report the distribution of yacón to Peru in the 1999 annual report, nor did he mention it in either of his two reports at the GADC meetings following that distribution. we have corrected these omissions in the ADU (acquisition and distribution unit) records. " I hope that the truth about this yacon distribution remains unchanged in the memory of the other GADC members.

In the electronic message sent to CIP employees, Dr. Collins emphasized that when germplasm is distributed within Peru, the import permit, the phytosanitary certificate, or the signing of a material transfer agreement are not necessary. She found a way to keep her hands clean in this non-transparent distribution of yacon to Japan. She used standard # 3 from CIP's Summary of Protocols on genetic resources (see page 9 of 3) which states: "CIP will not distribute any CIP material outside Peru without having been cleaned of pathogens; proof that CIP routinely practices ."The problem is that all the details of this shipment were arranged with the Director of INRENA, Dr. Josefina Takahashi, who is also one of the Peruvian representatives on the CIP board of directors. Therefore, it is very unfortunate and a shame that Those genetic resources from Peru were sent to Japan in violation of ethical principles in both CIP and INRENA. Dr. Collins says in her email to the Peruvian CIP staff: "In both transfers: from CIP to INRENA and from INRENA to Japan , the material was transferred in compliance with all existing regulations. There has been no mistake on the part of the CIP, nor of INRENA, and certainly there was no mistake on the part of Japan either. Even if CIP had agreed to grant Japan's request for the direct transfer of yacon material to the Japanese delegation, we would not have violated the Agreement with FAO, but only CIP's internal policy requiring an import license. and a phytosanitary certificate. Japan has the legitimate right to request and receive any material in our custody. I have not been able to make Dr. Pallais understand these points. "

One of the requirements established worldwide for the legal movement of germplasm from one country to another is the presentation of an import permit from the receiving country and a phytosanitary certificate from the country from which the shipment is made. It is not "just internal CIP policy" that makes these documents necessary, as Dr. Collins indicates above. The Japanese authorities should also clarify whether the Tagata School of Agriculture is one of the places for the official entry of germplasm legally imported through the Japan Institute of Genetic Resources. The Japanese authorities should show the documents that accompanied the shipment of yacón. With all this evidence, can it be said that the distribution of yacón to Japan was legal?

This shipment of yacon to Japan is a clear violation of the ethical principle of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on Trusteeship of Genetic Resources which states that, "As depositories of plant genetic resources, CGIAR Centers recognize their responsibility to be impartial, transparent and fair in their administration of the trust; to respect and observe national regulations and international conventions, & # 8230 ;; and, to make them easily available for use as a public good. " (see Annex 1 on page 13 of 3.)

The question is whether this deviation from ethical principles was necessary for the CIP leadership to provide a valuable gift to a major CGIAR donor who is quite interested in a crop, such as yacon, that has great economic potential. Drs. Masaru Niwa and Eiichi Inoue from the Ibaraki University School of Agriculture in Japan gave a seminar at CIP in September 2000. They indicated that the area cultivated with yacon in Japan has increased significantly in the recent years and that this new crop is used as a fresh vegetable, in brine, juices, etc. They also indicated that using the very few clones of this crop that were introduced in the 1980s, the Shikoku Agricultural Experiment Station released, on August 25, 2000, the first commercial variety of Japanese yacon named "Sarada-Otome". During the seminar discussion, I asked if it would be possible for Japan to send germplasm of the "Sarada-Otome" variety to Peru to be tested in the fields of Peruvian farmers. The answer was negative because this variety has breeder's rights. Is it fair that these new varieties are denied access to the countries of origin of a crop? When will industrialized countries accept a similar value to breeder's rights for the ancestral custodial rights of farmers who preserve domesticated plants for generations?

I make a request to the Japanese authorities, to the "Association of Japanese Researchers of Yacón", NGOs, and the general public of Japan. Please contribute to the establishment of a fairer trade movement between the industrialized countries and the developing countries rich in biodiversity. We must all contribute to the protection of biodiversity for future generations. This will only be feasible if efforts to conserve biodiversity both ex situ and in situ are complemented. Japan can make a substantial contribution to the in situ conservation of yacon genetic resources. This would be possible by providing germplasm of the "Sarada-Otome" variety to Andean farmers so that they can produce all the yacon that is needed in that country in the Andes. The condition would be that these Andean farmers must also continue to conserve the native varieties of that crop. Breeders who selected this new commercial variety would obtain royalties from all exported production from Peru. In addition, Japan can set aside its land for other crops or uses. It is my hope that Japan will decide to set this magnificent example, which would be a true milestone in starting a new century where a more equitable distribution of benefits from the use of genetic resources is a reality.

CIP and the other CGIAR Centers contribute significantly to increasing food security in developing countries and conserving the genetic resources of the most economically important plants. This is possible thanks to funding provided by the international community. Violation of any ethical principle related to genetic resources guarded by CGIAR would compromise their existence. The principle on equity expresses: "The CGIAI works to achieve equity in the conservation, sustainable use and distribution of benefits derived from genetic resources. This commitment to justice requires placing emphasis on the resource needs of the communities. poor and less favored members of society. "

P.S. At my request and that of CIP, the CGIAR Policy Committee on Genetic Resources reviewed the yacon case at its 12th Meeting held in Aurangabad, India, February 20-23, 2001.

In the report of that meeting, they say: "After a great discussion, the Committee made the following observations:

1. At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture of Peru, CIP sent the requested material in full compliance with the Agreement signed with FAO, and in particular with reference to the restoration of material to the country that originally provided it. In execution of the sovereign rights of Peru, the Ministry of Agriculture later sent it to Japan, on which the CIP does not have the power to prevent it or the right to interfere.

2. Based on the information provided by the CIP and the organization that made the complaint, the Committee has concluded that the CIP acted ethically and in accordance with the FAO-CGIAR Agreement.

As indicated in the text of this article, Dr. Wanda Collins managed to keep her hands clean in this case, ensuring that INRENA appears as the requesting institution. This was very good to protect the image of the CIP. However, the fact remains that this shipment was processed very quickly, while the majority of requests are answered after at least two weeks, which is the time it takes only to obtain the phytosanitary certificate. Collins and many scientists and CIP employees were aware that the INRENA driver had orders to take the yacon samples directly to the Lima international airport. Furthermore, the General Directorate of CIP knows very well that there is a law on access to genetic resources in Peru, as well as a draft of its regulations that is pending approval in Congress. The CIP knows that according to Peruvian law, the INRENA provides access only to wild species and that INIA (National Institute of Agrarian Research) is the institution authorized by law to provide access to the cultivated species. The yacón is a cultivated species and the INIA maintains many yacón entries in its ex situ collection. Why was the INIA not involved in this shipment of cultivated genetic resources?

Finally, it is now pending that the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture makes a formal request to Japan to obtain germplasm of the Japanese yacon variety "Sarada-Otome" to be tested and eventually used by Peruvian farmers. An affirmative reply from Japan would be a clear demonstration of its willingness to establish a constructive exchange of genetic resources.


1 Grau A. and Rea J. 1997. Yacon (Smallantus sonchifolius) (Poepp. & Endl.) H. Robinson. In: Hermann N. and J. Heller, editors. Andean Root and Tuber Crops: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. pp. 199-242. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben / International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.

2National Research Council. 1989. Lost Crops of the Incas: Little Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C.

3 International Potato Center. 1999. Genetic Resources, Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Rights. Office of the Deputy General Directorate for Investigation. First edition in Spanish. September, 1999.

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Pro Biodiversity of the Andes
Pro Biodiversity of the Andes

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  1. Sinjin

    You couldn't be wrong?

  2. Bardolf

    Quite right! The idea is good, I support it.

  3. Nisien

    I can not participate now in discussion - it is very occupied. But I will be released - I will necessarily write that I think on this question.

  4. Faele

    is understood in two ways like this

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