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
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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:
Thanks for your interest,
Kerri Wright Platais
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'
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)
Dr. Jose T. Esquinas-Alcazar
Commission on Plant Genetic Resources
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
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."