Summary of the 14th ECPGR Steering Committee meeting

Photo by Nikola Travar, Genetic Resources Institute, Banjaluka

The Fourteenth Steering Committee (SC) meeting of ECPGR took place in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 31 May to 2 June 2016, hosted by the Ivo Andrić Institute and in collaboration with the University of Banjaluka.

The meeting was attended by representatives from 34 countries and by observers from the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), the European Seed Association (ESA), the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding (EUCARPIA), the Directorate-General for Environment (DG-ENV) of the European Commission, the FAO International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the NGO Network for on-farm conservation and management.

Recommendations and decisions towards the implementation of AEGIS, the establishment of a permanent training activity for EURISCO National Focal Points and the importance to offer the ECPGR Concepts for in situ conservation of crop wild relatives in Europe and for on-farm conservation and management of PGRFA to the European Commission for consideration were among the recommendations for Phase IX. Better attention was also recommended to establish collaborations with breeders for evaluation activities. Finally, an ECPGR communication and public relation strategy should start to be developed with messages targeting the general public, the scientific community and policy-makers.

All the Chairs of the Working Groups were reconfirmed in their role until the end of the Phase.

The results of the evaluation of the proposals submitted under the Third Call of the ECPGR Grant Scheme were disclosed by the Executive Committee. Seven proposals were accepted for funding, either without amendments (submitted by the Documentation and Information and Wheat WGs), or with minor amendments (submitted by the Grain Legumes, Leafy Vegetables, MAP, Vitis and On farm Conservation and Management WGs). The proposal from the Beta WG was not accepted, due to lack of clarity on some relevant aspects.

In preparation for Phase X (2019-2023), the SC agreed to revise the Objectives and the Mode of operation of ECPGR. In particular, two budget lines of similar amounts will be introduced, one exclusively dedicated to meetings, to enable WG members to establish collaborations for actions. Additional actions should be funded through the Grant Scheme, based on selection of proposals. In this case, the 75:25 ratio ‘meetings’ vs. ‘other actions’ will no longer apply.

ECPGR objectives for Phase X should enable WGs to undertake an ample range of activities, in particular expanded to engaging more with users, e.g. with pre-breeding activities, and to defining their respective roles within global crop conservation strategies. EURISCO training will continue with a dedicated budget. Documentation of crop wild relatives (CWRs) conserved in genetic reserves should be promoted in EURISCO via the definition of an agreed minimum data exchange format on the basis of existing in situ descriptor lists. Further discussion on inclusion of on-farm data in EURISCO should take place as part of the implementation of the ECPGR On-farm concept, once agreed.

An ECPGR mailing list of PGR policy experts will be established to improve communication, advice and consensus building on PGR-related policy issues as these may arise.

As a follow-up to the conclusion of the EU Preparatory Action, the ExCo/Secretariat will send a letter to the European Commission and to the European Parliament, offering ECPGR elements such as AEGIS, EURISCO, the Secretariat and experts/Working Groups for implementing the EU Programme for PGRFA.

Following the clear presentations given by the DG-ENV representative on the EU Regulation on the Nagoya Protocol and by the Secretary of the FAO ITPGRFA on the Multilateral System, the SC agreed to recommend to all ECPGR member countries, as appropriate and in line with national legislation, to use the SMTA for distribution of both Annex I and non-Annex I PGRFA accessions independently of whether material is conserved in ex situ collections or held in situ.

Continued hosting arrangements provided by Bioversity and IPK respectively for the Secretariat and EURISCO are foreseen to be reconfirmed during Phase X, pending agreements with the respective institutions.