The crop diversity in CGIAR’s international genebanks continues to be in great demand. That’s music to the ears of genebank managers, who naturally want to see their carefully conserved collections put to good use. But it also places great pressure on them to ensure that only clean and healthy material is distributed.
“Spreading seed-transmitted pests and pathogens is a major risk associated with germplasm delivery to end-users around the world,” said Lava Kumar, a virologist who doubles as Head of the Germplasm Health Unit at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). “Movement across borders can spread all types of nasty things, like bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes, phytoplasma, viruses and viroids. For plants as well as people.”
That means the international genebanks need robust ways to ensure that only pest-free seeds are transported across borders. That’s the job of the Germplasm Health Units (GHUs), which participate, along with the genebanks, in the CGIAR Genebank Platform. Together with their partners, they are developing a special protocol called GreenPass, which guarantees that best practices are used at all stages of handling a seed transfer. GreenPass provides the confidence that countries need to let germplasm cross borders instead of suspecting every package is infected until proved otherwise.