Top award for scientific support team stays with RP
The Manila Times, November 3, 2003

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Filipino researchers have won for the third consecutive year the world’s most prestigious award for a scientific support team in publicly-funded agricultural research.

The winning team is composed of 33 Filipino scientists working in the Genetic Resources Center (GRC) at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna Province.

The researchers operate the GRC, which manages the International Rice Genebank, and play a central role in the center’s achievement of significant scientific advances in the conservation and use of rice genetic resources.

The award was announced on October 29 at the annual general meeting in Nairobi of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which presents the CGIAR Excellence in Science Awards.

The winners are responsible for maintaining and making accessible to farmers and plant breeders about 110,000 samples of traditional and modern varieties of cultivated rice, the world’s most comprehensive collection of rice genetic resources.

The genebank houses a staggering wealth of rice diversity bred by farmers for thousands of years of agriculture.

In addition to preserving seed samples in cold storage, the genebank multiplies them to keep the collection viable and fill requests for samples.

“We aim to protect traditional varieties of rice so that they can be used to help poor rice farmers throughout the world,” said Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the GRC. “We are open to any nation, including those who do not deposit their traditional varieties with us, provided they agree not to infringe the sovereign tights of nations over their biodiversity.”

The Filipino team undertook the job of storing, testing, multiplying, characterizing, distributing and documenting seed samples. The team has been instrumental in building the genebank’s reputation for excellence.

The recent external review of the CGIAR genebank operations cited it as the “best in the CGIAR system” and “a model for others to emulate.”

To formalize and share the knowledge and techniques acquired over the years, the team developed an online “Manual of Operations” that documents all daily management operations and is used by national and regional genebanks as a guide and distance-learning tool.

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