DIVERSITY SAFE AT LOOTED EGYPT GENE BANK
Update on Damage of the Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank
Matt Styslinger, 2011 February 7 (Nourishing the Planet blog)
"El-Sayed Mohamed El-Azazi—a PhD student conducting doctoral research at Egypt’s Desert Research Center in North Sinai—posted an update…on the state of the center’s Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank (EDGB). The center was looted and damaged over a week ago during protests…"
[From last week’s Sunday World:] "In the chaos surrounding the political unrest and public uprising in Egypt, looters have badly damaged the country’s Desert Research Center in El Sheikh Zowaid in North Sinai. The center houses the Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank (EDGB), and—according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust—equipment has been stolen and the cooling system has been damaged."
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[From last week’s Sunday World:] "The EDGB is focused on desert plants found throughout Egypt and includes a herbarium and specialized laboratories for tissue culture, biotechnology, species documentation, and seed processing and viability testing…[and] an 18-acre field gene bank that focuses on the use of plant genetic resources in local communities…The field collection includes wild varieties of fruit, forages, medicinal plants, and aromatic plants from the Egyptian deserts…[F]acilities included computerized ex-situ seed storage, for the conservation of threatened species not native to the region. The center was selected as a Centre of Excellence for the region by Bioversity International in 2009…"
"…According to El-Azazi, the facility’s seeds and field gene bank are safe, but equipment was stolen and broken, including computers that stored EDGB’s gene database."
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"Although the digital database is apparently lost, there is a hardcopy backup of the passport data. Passport data is considered the core of a genes database, including the variety name, scientific name, origin, and registration date of each entry. Accession numbers are assigned to each entry, to which additional data—like stock quantity or characteristics of the particular genetic resource—is added. The EDGB database contains 1,100 accessions from 750 wild desert plant species. This collection includes genetic resources not found anywhere else in the world. But some of the material is duplicated at the Millennium Seed Bank in the United Kingdom.
"El-Azazi’s research is focused on Egyptian Acacia species. He reports that some of his own data has been lost with the damage at the Desert Research Center…"