The International Board of Plant Genetic Resources is undertaking an evaluation of each gene bank which is previously designated as a "base" for plant germplasm storage. A partial report covering the first 17 banks was submitted to the board in February, 1987, exposing major security problems.
The development of high-yielding cacao varieties could lead to overproduction and jeopardize prize and stability of cacao-producing countries while shifting production from small-scale producers to large-scale plantations, the use of biotechnology to convert low-priced oils into cacao butter could drastically reduce the demand and price for cacao beans.
A Report on the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, Rome Second Session, March 16-21, 1987
The establishment of an international fund for the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources, participation of governments in the UN Food and Agriculture Organizations International undertaking to promote full exchange of genetic resources, and the establishment of an international system of gene banks under FAO auspices.
Issue: The use of biotechnology to produce the intensely sweet thaumatin protein.
Plant: Thaumatin is derived from a fruit of a West-African rain forest shrub.
Countries affected: Product will be marketed as a low-calorie sweetener in Europe, Japan, USA
Impact: In combination with other newly developed sweeteners, these products offer the potential to erode traditional sugar markets
Issue: Natural vanilla production via tissue culture technology.
Crop: Vanilla planifolia - the commercially important species of Vanilla orchis
Countries affected: Madagascar, Comoros islands, Reunion, Indonesia
Impact: possible loss of $67 million in annual export earnings.
Product: Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) or Bovine Somatotropin (BST)
Purpose: Designed to dramatically increase milk production in dairy cattle
Counties affected: USA and Europe initially
Impact: Drop in milk prices, loss of 25-30% of dairy farmers, changes in cropping patterns, narrowing of genetic base of dairy cattle
Issue: Replacement of major cash crop (Gum Arabic)
Countries affected: Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and others
Impact: Possible loss of $ 60 million in annual export earnings and seasonal employment
New starch-based substitutes for gum arabic and other water soluble gums threaten to replace a major portion of gum exports from several African countries.