German envoy helps open new seed processing lab at IRRI

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LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – A new seed laboratory has opened at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). It will increase the capacity and speed at which seeds are prepared for entry into the International Rice Genebank, where the germplasm of more than 127,000 rice varieties from around the world are kept for conservation, scientific research, and breeding purposes.

The Genetic Resources Seed Processing Laboratory (GRSPL) opened on 13 April 2016, with H.E. Thomas Ossowski, ambassador of Germany to the Philippines, cutting the ribbon and unveiling the marker with Jim Godfrey, OBE, chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees, and Matthew Morell, director general of IRRI.

The GRSPL was built with support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of the Government of Germany. Also represented during the inauguration was the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), by Dicky Simorangkir, project director for the Institutional Strengthening of Biodiversity Sector in ASEAN.

"For Germany, food security is a basic human right, and we all are responsible. We cannot close our eyes. We have to work for it," said Ambassador Ossowki. "It is a gigantic task that needs to be undertaken, which demands international effort. I can assure you that Germany will always be a partner for that."

"I’m glad that through our Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation, we can always offer means but also support and staff to help you in this joint task,” the ambassador added. "I believe it’s a very worthwhile task and I’m very glad and very honored to be the guest here tonight."

Dr. Morell conveyed IRRI’s gratitude to the ambassador, saying that "the construction of the facility reminds us that the work is indeed a global effort."

The new facility provides a modern infrastructure as well as process upgrades critical to the seed processing function of IRRI’s T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center (GRC), which handles conservation of global rice diversity through the Genebank. It also provides germplasm (seeds) for rice research and breeding programs at IRRI and in several countries.

"We recognize now more than ever the important role genetic diversity plays in breeding improved varieties, and requests for breeding materials have been increasing," reports Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the GRC. "Construction of the GRSPL is timely, as it allows us to respond to this rise in demand."

"The ways in which we deal with climate change now came a lot from the work of the Genebank," said Abdel Ismail, who leads the STRASA (Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia) project. He cited how the climate-smart rice varieties, which are helping provide sustenance and livelihood to millions of poor farmers in Asia, were developed using traits derived from the rich diversity of old rice varieties being kept in the Genebank.

The genebank collection continues to grow in size and usage, with more than 181,000 samples shipped to 65 countries over the last five years. The GRSPL will make it possible to handle the growing volume of seeds submitted for safekeeping, as well as of requests for seeds, without compromising seed quality, handling standards, and end-user requirements.

(View full Flickr photo album from the event.)

(View full Flickr photo album from the event.)

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