Monday, September 14, 2015

Head of IRRI genebank to serve at FAO genetic resources secretariat

Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the International Rice Genebank, will soon be on loan with the secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to bolster the implementation of the International Treaty. He will spend part of his time in Los Baños and part in Rome.

An evolutionary biologist with four decades of experience in plant genetic resources, Dr. Sackville Hamilton will share his deep scientific expertise as head of the Genebank, maintained by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), to strengthen the global information system (GLIS) on plant genetic resources under the Treaty and its multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing, which covers—in addition to rice—34 crops and 29 forages.

“Ruaraidh’s expertise, which draws on and honors thousands of years of farmers’ knowledge, will be made available to help address a broader set of global food security challenges through the scientific and informatics work of the Treaty,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of IRRI.

Ruaraidh will further the development of GLIS, which will integrate and enhance existing systems that facilitate exchange of scientific, technical, and environment-related information related to plant genetic resources. The International Rice Informatics Consortium, established by IRRI, will provide the basis for the structure of the information system. He will be based at IRRI for much of the year and working at the FAO in Rome for significant stretches.

“Through GLIS, FAO will be a major provider of information exchange in the future knowledge economy around plant genetic resources for food and agriculture,” said Ren Wang, assistant director general of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, which hosts the Treaty. Dr. Wang was deputy director general for research at IRRI from 2000 to 2007.

The multilateral system seeks to facilitate access to plant genetic resources for conservation and use in research, breeding, and training, guided by global food security goals and to ensure that resulting benefits are shared equitably. Dr. Sackville Hamilton will help develop options for improving the instruments that enable the fair and equitable sharing of genetic resources.

“We welcome the contributions of Dr. Sackville Hamilton toward enhancing the global systems by integrating the exchange of genetic material and high value-added data about that material,” said Shakeel Bhatti, head of the Treaty Secretariat since 2007. “The Treaty mechanisms will thus provide increased value and services to its users—including farmers, plant scientists, researchers, and breeders— in the future.”

This arrangement recognizes the leading roles IRRI and the International Rice Genebank have played in global efforts toward genetic resource conservation as well as Dr. Sackville Hamilton’s standing in the field.

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