4

Prescription for Effectiveness

T he United States, through the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), distributes free of charge more germplasm around the world than any other nation and plays an important role in efforts to manage and protect the world's crop genetic resources. The creation of the national system more than 15 years ago was intended to herald an efficient effort aimed at coordinating activities throughout the country. Instead the system has been burdened by a cumbersome administrative structure inappropriate to managing a program that has substantial national and international responsibilities. A plethora of advisory and administrative bodies make it difficult to discern where, or if indeed, there is any central germplasm leadership and authority in the United States. Central, unified, budgetary authority for NPGS activities is similarly lacking. These dispersed, sometimes overlapping administrative, advisory, and budgetary components have often confused and hampered the effectiveness of NPGS.

The administrative and advisory organization of the National Plant Germplasm System should be structured to provide for efficient national coordination.

The administrative structure of the NPGS is inefficient and far too complex. The great strategic importance of plant genetic resources requires that the system be administered centrally, at the national level. Stronger and clearer liaison among the cooperating units and agencies is needed if the NPGS is to address effectively the many issues that confront it. More direct lines of authority must be vested in a central



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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System 4 Prescription for Effectiveness T he United States, through the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), distributes free of charge more germplasm around the world than any other nation and plays an important role in efforts to manage and protect the world's crop genetic resources. The creation of the national system more than 15 years ago was intended to herald an efficient effort aimed at coordinating activities throughout the country. Instead the system has been burdened by a cumbersome administrative structure inappropriate to managing a program that has substantial national and international responsibilities. A plethora of advisory and administrative bodies make it difficult to discern where, or if indeed, there is any central germplasm leadership and authority in the United States. Central, unified, budgetary authority for NPGS activities is similarly lacking. These dispersed, sometimes overlapping administrative, advisory, and budgetary components have often confused and hampered the effectiveness of NPGS. The administrative and advisory organization of the National Plant Germplasm System should be structured to provide for efficient national coordination. The administrative structure of the NPGS is inefficient and far too complex. The great strategic importance of plant genetic resources requires that the system be administered centrally, at the national level. Stronger and clearer liaison among the cooperating units and agencies is needed if the NPGS is to address effectively the many issues that confront it. More direct lines of authority must be vested in a central

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System management unit to address long-standing needs and concerns and to reduce the complex bureaucracy separating individual site activities from those who should exercise coordinated national management. To be effective, however, this national authority must possess the capability of linking program and policy development with budget authority. Placing greater decision-making and budgetary authority in a central unit and reducing the administrative inputs will reduce the multiple authorities to which individual sites are responsible and will enable the NPGS to deal directly with national needs. Furthermore, a centralized system would provide much needed coordination, guidance, and direction to U.S. policies regarding the collection, exchange, and use of genetic resources around the world. A centralized NPGS could act as the liaison to other parts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), other executive branch departments (e.g., the U.S. Department of State), Congress, industry, and other private efforts to manage germplasm. In so doing, the many and sometimes disparate interests and concerns of these groups would receive greater attention when policies, directions, and budgets for the NPGS are developed. ACHIEVING A NATIONALLY MANAGED SYSTEM The primary barriers to consolidated, central management of the NPGS are that it is a dispersed system and that clear authority and responsibility for program direction and budget are not vested in a single office or individual. There is no distinct budget for the NPGS. Because responsibility for activities and budgets are dispersed, there is no well-defined mechanism for assuring that budgets accurately reflect or address the needs of the system. Its support is derived as a portion of the funds more broadly directed toward germplasm-related work. Because the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the primary source of funds for most of the principal NPGS sites, the NPGS is frequently perceived as an ARS responsibility. Other public and private entities, however, play important roles. This perception of ARS responsibility has sometimes hampered interagency cooperation. Within ARS, management of germplasm activities through the Germplasm Matrix Team and the ARS area directors has been an obstacle to achieving a coordinated nationally focused program. More direct control must be vested in a central, national authority. The policies and directions of the NPGS should originate from this authority and be overseen by a national board that is representative of

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System the wide array of agencies, offices, and public and private groups that work with or are served by the NPGS. The office must provide liaison with agencies, offices, and groups at the national and international level with regard to U.S. germplasm activities, and, where appropriate, have authority to foster cooperative activities. The committee has identified two options to give the NPGS greater visibility within the USDA and to simplify and centralize its management: the creation of a reorganized national system apart from the ARS, or the elevation of the NPGS within the ARS. Creation of a Reorganized System Outside the ARS The NPGS could be removed from the ARS to become a separate entity within the USDA's Office of Science and Education. It would cease to be the responsibility of the National Program Staff, and would be overseen by an administrative unit reporting to the assistant secretary for science and education. The unit would have direct responsibility for NPGS budgets, staffing, and program execution. Sites and program activities would be administered directly by this new body rather than through the ARS areas or the regions of the Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS). Cooperative support from ARS, CSRS, or others would be provided for specific activities, but the national office would coordinate activities and funds. The National Plant Genetic Resources Board (NPGRB) would provide oversight and guidance for policies and programs. The reorganized system would administer sites, collections, international activities, germplasm acquisition, data and germplasm management, research, and advisory and other activities related to managing plant germplasm in the United States. The new NPGS should also, with guidance from the NPGRB and through appropriate government offices (e.g., U.S. Department of State), provide liaison for bilateral cooperative agreements and for international germplasm activities with, for example, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Removing the administration of the national system from the ARS would provide more direct line authority and budgetary control from the system leader to individual sites. Budgets could be administered centrally and activities coordinated nationally. ARS scientists or others with responsibilities in addition to germplasm could hold joint appointments. In this way, salary and other costs attributable to germplasm

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System could be covered by the NPGS. Given a clear national plan for managing germplasm in the United States, the NPGS would be more responsive to the needs of individual sites and to the requirements of international collaboration. Moving the NPGS out of the ARS would pose some difficulties. Such a change could distance germplasm management from basic research efforts that have proved to be important parts of the overall activity. An NPGS that is organized outside and parallel to the much larger ARS could have reduced visibility when budgets are developed or other resources allocated. As a relatively small unit, it might be difficult for the NPGS to obtain cooperation from larger services, such as the ARS or CSRS. Such a reorganization would necessitate creation of new administrative staff to provide services related to personnel, contracts, accounting, and purchasing. The NPGS could consider obtaining administrative services through cooperation with either ARS or CSRS, but not without providing funds to accomplish them. Difficulties might also arise when the NPGS develops policies and procedures that depart from those in their cooperating agencies. Providing these services within an independent NPGS would be possible, but it would require additional funds to achieve, beyond those presently allotted to germplasm work in ARS. The association of the national system with the basic and mission-oriented research of the ARS has been an asset, particularly for the application of new technologies to germplasm management. Development of methods for the cryopreservation of seeds and tissues by ARS researchers at the National Seed Storage Laboratory (NSSL) should, for example, lead to improved methods for maintaining materials in long-term storage. Basic research at that same facility on the biophysics of water in dried seed could lead to new technologies for storage and viability assessment. ARS researchers involved in germplasm enhancement or evaluation are significant users of NPGS germplasm, whether located at an NPGS site or elsewhere. Removing the national system from ARS could weaken the important link between germplasm management and basic research. As in many organizational structures, power bases can be very important. The power base for an independent NPGS would be small. The NPGS could find itself competing, rather than cooperating, with the ARS for funds, staff, and equipment. Where sites would be occupied by both NPGS and ARS scientists, or those with joint appointments in the two units, competition for oversight of resources and facilities could exist. There are, of course, conflicts similar to this now. The question

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System is whether they could be better resolved outside rather than inside the ARS. Elevation of the NPGS Within ARS It may be possible to continue the administration of the NPGS within the ARS. However, the responsibility for oversight of NPGS activities would have to be elevated from the National Program Staff and vested in a director who would report to the administrator of ARS on budgets and program direction. This change would require an organization that would, to some degree, push aside the present ARS system of area administration. Responsibility for budget, staffing, and program direction would rest with the central office. This change would also obviate the need for the Germplasm Matrix Team, although recommendations on programs could be sought from the National Program Staff as needed to coordinate activities. The NPGS director should be responsible for formulating an overall budget for the system that would take account of funding and other resources provided by other cooperating agencies (e.g., CSRS, state agricultural experimental stations). In developing a budget, the director should address the concerns and priorities of the national system as identified by the NPGRB. The NPGS budget should be a separate element of the ARS budget, clearly distinguished from other ARS activities. An annual report should be made to the NPGRB by the leader of the NPGS on the effectiveness with which the board's recommendations for budget and program were addressed. The USDA must develop an NPGS organization with minimal bureaucratic and administrative entanglements and maximal independence. Of the two options, the committee favors creation of a reorganized NPGS outside ARS as the most likely to bring about the positive administrative and advisory changes that it recommends. The second option would perpetuate many of the current administrative constraints on the operation of the NPGS. Addressing the crucial needs of the NPGS will require significant changes in budget responsibility and in the way the NPGS is organized and managed. The committee cautions the USDA not to respond to these recommendations solely by generating more cooperative or informal agreements. Such agreements are valuable mechanisms for enabling the NPGS to achieve important specific goals, through the sharing of resources and responsibilities among NPGS cooperators. However, they

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System cannot alone provide the sharp national focus and central authority needed. CHANGES IN THE ADVISORY STRUCTURE At present, the responsibilities of advisory units within the NPGS often overlap. In many cases, no mechanism exists for considering the advice or reports of these groups. The responsibilities of the advisory groups must be clearly defined and their advice must be used in developing the system's activities, programs, and budgets. Site-specific advisory committees (such as the technical advisory committees described in Chapter 3) could be established by individual sites in cooperation with the central management office. These committees should provide expert technical and scientific advice in support of the site's nationally mandated activities. The National Plant Genetic Resources Board must have greater independence as an adviser on national and international policies. During its first years the NPGRB showed strong leadership in its policy recommendations and monitored their implementation diligently. By the early 1980s its role had diminished. Little regard was paid to the terms of appointment and rotation of membership, and a wholesale turnover of members resulted in a lack of continuity. The executive secretary's position, initially filled by a CSRS senior staff person, was given to a member of the ARS National Program Staff. The style of operation of the board also changed as ARS appeared to influence its agendas, recommendations, and activities more than in the past. Despite the intent that “the Board will be composed of individuals with diverse capabilities distinguished by their knowledge and interest in plant genetic resources management” (National Plant Genetic Resources Board, 1984), the diversity of representation narrowed. The minutes of board meetings reveal that informational items were discussed and that substantive policy issues, such as plant patenting and international activities, were neither discussed nor pursued. The board produced few written formal or official statements, recommendations, or positions. Thus, it had little influence over genetic resources issues. Although the current chair of the NPGRB has made the board more vocal about and responsive to policy issues, the board must have greater independence in advising on plant genetic resources policy. The focus of the board's activities must be clearly distinct from that of other advisory bodies, such as the National Plant Germplasm Committee

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGC) or the Plant Germplasm Operations Committee (PGOC). Its primary concerns should be genetic resources policy, strategy, and international cooperation. Its recommendations should be incorporated into the formulation of NPGS budgets and programs. The NPGRB should have greater independence from those who receive its reports and advice. At present the assistant secretary for science and education, as chair, both transmits and receives the board's reports and advice for the secretary of agriculture. The board would be better served if its chair were elected from the membership. The chair should be the board's advocate in presenting its decisions and recommendations to the secretary of agriculture and the leader of the national system. The chair, on behalf of the board, should transmit an annual report summarizing the board's activities to the secretary of agriculture, the relevant congressional committees, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and other interested parties. The report should address U.S. germplasm activities and the effectiveness of the NPGS in achieving the board 's budgetary and programmatic recommendations. The executive secretary of the NPGRB is responsible for administrative activities. This individual should be independent of the ARS National Program Staff and, with the chair, should aid in developing and setting agendas. Representation on the NPGRB should include public and private sector scientists and administrators with responsibilities and expertise for managing or using plant germplasm. Representatives from other relevant federal offices, such as the Departments of State and Interior would ensure that the board's deliberations include the concerns of all NPGS participants. Private, nonprofit groups with interests in managing and conserving plant genetic resources should also be represented. The National Plant Germplasm Committee should be disbanded. The NPGC is superfluous and should be eliminated. The committee was once an effective advocate for the NPGS, but today its members' expertise in and commitment to germplasm varies considerably. Some members, while interested in the subject, have little prior experience with the germplasm system. As a consequence a major part of the NPGC' s work has been to educate its members about plant genetic resources. A clear role distinct from other advisory groups no longer exists for the committee. No designated individual or office within the NPGS receives its reports and advice, and its ability to influence policy is limited.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System The crop advisory committees should be provided financial support, and a mechanism should be created to use their reports when developing policies and priorities. The crop advisory committees could be valuable in assessing the status and needs of NPGS collections. They need encouragement and financial support, but have received little of either from the National Plant Germplasm System. As a result their impact and effectiveness are reduced. The committee's reports can be very useful as sources for developing plans and priorities for the NPGS. However, there is no mechanism to ensure they are used to set national priorities and develop plans. The more assertive committee members go directly to the NPGS, the USDA, and even to the Congress, either independently or through a commodity group, to obtain action on their concerns. This can lead to unbalanced treatment for some crops and to priorities that take no account of the relative needs of other crops. Recently the ARS national program leader for plant germplasm has brought together the chairs of the crop advisory committees, crop curators, and others for annual meetings that have been useful for promoting communication. However, well-attended, regular meetings of the crop advisory committees are needed to discuss tasks and produce reports. Some support to chairs for administrative expenses would facilitate communication with the membership between meetings when urgent questions arise. These committees must be developed further as key elements of the national system. If they are to receive a minimal level of support, their numbers should be reassessed. There should also be a central review of all of the reports by an existing group, the PGOC, or a committee drawn from the committees' chairs. The Plant Germplasm Operations Committee should be given responsibility for advising the leader of the National Plant Germplasm System on management, operations, and priorities. The PGOC has become an effective and responsive advocate for the needs and priorities of site managers in the NPGS. It provides a forum for debating the various needs of sites and collections that allows for the balancing of divergent priorities. It should report to the leader of the NPGS on matters pertaining to operations and functions at germplasm sites, and to provide advice on coordinating and developing management plans and priorities derived, in part, from the reports of the crop advisory committees.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System GERMPLASM ACQUISITION AND COLLECTIONS New germplasm should be acquired in response to a long-range plan based on analyses of present holdings and future needs and goals. As collections grow in size it is increasingly important to develop procedures that allow them to be used easily and managed efficiently. This will require the NPGS to give continuing attention to quarantine, information management, development of criteria for entry of new accessions, and the problems of managing large collections (Chang, 1989). Plant Exploration The National Plant Germplasm System should develop a comprehensive plan for plant exploration. Successful explorations depend, in part, on clear, scientifically based objectives. In the past, lack of a plan for exploration has resulted in some crops receiving greater attention while others, with few champions, went unserved. Until very recently, the guidelines for plant exploration activities were too rigid and complex for even a relatively simple collecting trip. Flexibility is needed to approve, fund, and expedite the various endeavors in plant exploration. These may involve a single collector, a team of individuals, multinational fieldwork, collection of a precisely located endemic species, or collection of many species over a wide range. Past difficulties have led to a decline in requests for support and for exploration activities, and to criticisms about the lack of these activities in the national system. In recent years, actions have been taken to address these deficiencies. Since 1988, the national system has begun to develop priorities based on deficiencies in its collections and on expected germplasm needs. The crop advisory committees can play an important part in priority development. Qualified people are being sought to collect germplasm in accordance with established priorities and standards. This approach is a considerable departure from the past practice of assuming that exploration proposals submitted to the Germplasm Matrix Team through the then existent Plant Exploration Office would reflect the appropriate priorities for the NPGS. It is very important to address national and local concerns when planning explorations. Cooperative efforts that include U.S. and local scientists working together throughout a growing season should be sought through FAO or the International Board for Plant Genetic

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System Resources (IBPGR), or through bilateral agreements. Local scientists should participate in exploration and collection, and receive samples of all of the accessions obtained. Finally, germplasm exchanges can be hampered by international trade embargoes that restrict the shipment of agricultural products or commercial grain. Germplasm exchange should be exempt from such embargoes. The Plant Introduction Office The role of the Plant Introduction Office within the national system should be clearly defined. The Plant Introduction Office (PIO) plays an important and highly visible role in international cooperation and exchange. These activities should be centrally managed within the NPGS. In the past, its international visibility has led to the incorrect assumption that the PIO or its leader controlled the NPGS. The PIO should be the site of germplasm entry and assignment of plant introduction (PI) numbers, and the validation of documentation, nomenclature, and site of origin. Its activities should be clearly within the management jurisdiction of the NPGS leader. Quarantine The National Plant Germplasm System should continue to seek the development of policies, procedures, and cooperative arrangements that promote the safe, yet rapid and efficient, acquisition of germplasm. Quarantine policy, under the regulation of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), attempts to prevent the importation of disease and insect pests not indigenous to the United States. Approximately 90 percent of the germplasm that enters the United States moves relatively unimpeded through quarantine, following routine inspection and occasional fumigation, on arrival. Some 8 percent of items entering the country are placed under a postentry quarantine while 2 percent, about 10 genera, mostly vegetatively propagated, are prohibited from entry (H. Waterworth, U.S. Department of Agriculture, personal communication, September 1987). These percentages, however, do not reflect some important materials that because of quarantine restrictions are simply never acquired. In the past, some accessions of Prunus (e.g., plums, nectarines, apricots, cherries, peaches) have been delayed in quarantine for more than two decades (S. M. Dietz, U.S. Department of Agriculture, personal communication, July 1990). Because

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System Accessions of glabrous apricots from Alma-Ata in the south central Soviet Union were introduced into the United States in July 1990 and placed under quarantine. They cannot be made available to researchers until tests to detect plant pathogens in them have been completed, which can take several years. Credit: Calvin Sperling. of a lack of facilities to grow them under quarantine in the United States, a number of items (such as corn and sorghum accessions from Africa and Asia) must be grown in Europe or Latin America before becoming a part of the 90 percent that pass quickly. An offshore quarantine site, such as that being developed by ARS in St. Croix under a permit from APHIS, will greatly expedite the entry process for many accessions. Recent agreements between ARS and APHIS have promoted cooperation on importing germplasm for scientific purposes. The National Plant Germplasm Quarantine Center near Beltsville, Maryland, run jointly by NPGS and APHIS, was established to facilitate exchange and importation and to eliminate a rapidly growing backlog of germplasm materials. However, the center's isolation areas, greenhouses, controlled environment rooms, laboratories, and staff members will be insufficient

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System such as evaluation or regeneration, should be considered in addition to published papers. Alternatively, the ARS could create a separate category for germplasm scientists that allows for open-ended promotion, but with evaluation guidelines more appropriate to the work of germplasm maintenance and research. The potential to structure a staff appointment to devote a percentage of time to basic research (e.g., 80 percent for service activities and 20 percent for research) should not be overlooked. THE MISSION OF THE NATIONAL SYSTEM The National Plant Germplasm System should develop clear, concise goals and policies that encompass the conservation of plant genetic resources that reflect the world's biological diversity and crop resources of immediate use to scientists and breeders. Efforts are needed to expand some collections to make them more representative of the available diversity. Assessments of collection completeness must give due regard to the inclusion of close wild relatives and non-crop-related species, which may possess useful genes. National policy should include endangered species of native and exotic taxa and should not be limited to crop genetic resources. Plans for collecting should include consideration of the range of ecogeographical areas where accessions originate, how broad based or narrow the collection is in terms of known or suspected genetic traits, and what genes might be obtained through various transect or other sampling procedures when rare alleles are sought. These factors must be weighed against cost, accuracy, need, and other criteria for obtaining suitable materials. Specifically, definitions and plans are needed for Developing a long-term policy, periodically reviewed and revised, that states what genetic resources will be acquired and how to cooperate with foreign germplasm banks and with U.S. collections that are not formally part of the NPGS. Assessing NPGS collections and developing priorities to ensure they sample adequately the genetic diversity for the species. Replenishing seed stocks, with the help of international collaboration where appropriate. Characterizing and evaluating the germplasm held in collections. This information will facilitate wider use of germplasm and make possible more efficient management. Accelerating the adoption of modern technologies for the maintenance and characterization of germplasm.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System Promoting the use of conserved germplasm through enhancement efforts that incorporate important new genetic traits into appropriate genetic backgrounds. Clarifying the position of the United States on questions of germplasm ownership, unrestricted exchange, and cooperation that are emerging in international forums. The committee endorses an earlier recommendation (Office of Technology Assessment, 1987) that the United States should not embargo exchanges of germplasm for political, economic, or other reasons. Developing cooperative links between the NPGS and other national and international agencies, institutions, or groups conserving global biological diversity. The United States must address the problem of the global loss of biological diversity. This can be done in significant part through conserving the genetic diversity of crop species. The stated mission of the national system is “to acquire, maintain, evaluate, and make readily accessible to crop breeders and other plant scientists as wide as possible a range of genetic diversity in the form of seed and clonal germplasm of our crops and potential new crops” (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1981). The NPGS collections are not storehouses for all of the known crop cultivars. Other groups hold and distribute heirloom varieties no longer commercially available. While the focus of the NPGS on breeders and researchers as primary users has been satisfactory to date, the need to conserve the world 's biological diversity has become an important issue. Aggressive participation and leadership by the United States in international efforts toward conserving and managing biological diversity are necessary and urgent. In the future, national programs could include broader biological conservation and research interests, such as conserving threatened or endangered wild species unrelated to crops but of potential economic or unique biological interest (Office of Technology Assessment, 1987) or in situ monitoring of the status of crop progenitor species and landraces threatened by habitat decline. International Policies and Cooperation The National Plant Germplasm System must take a more active role in developing U.S. policies that guide relations with the Food and Agriculture Organization, international agricultural research centers, and other international agencies and national institutions. Germplasm management is no longer a strictly national concern. By

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System accepting responsibility for international base collections, the U.S. underscores its international role in maintaining these resources, for itself and for other nations. To fulfill these obligations requires a coherent, science-based policy. To achieve it will require the NPGS and its leadership to have a much greater role in developing U.S. policy related to germplasm and in representing the United States before international germplasm bodies, such as international agricultural research centers and the FAO. While individuals in the NPGS may cooperate and interact with their counterparts in other nations, there is no U.S. international policy on plant genetic resources. Much of this is due to the domestic focus of the Agricultural Research Service. Many individuals within the ARS have developed international contacts, but such cooperation is not part of the service's policies or goals and there is limited support for it. The USDA generally defers to the U.S. Department of State on international matters. When there is a lack of appreciation or understanding of the scientific and agricultural issues involved, the outcome may not promote germplasm interests. Cooperation with other nations in managing genetic resources should be more widely pursued. Greater exchange of germplasm and data between the NPGS and similar institutions in other nations (e.g., N. I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in the USSR, National Institute of Agrobiological Resources in Japan, Institute of Crop Germplasm Resources in the People's Republic of China, and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in India) will lead to other mutually beneficial cooperative efforts. While some efforts at international cooperation exist, there is no clearly established mechanism or policy for fostering them. There should be an unambiguous mechanism for establishing U.S. positions with regard to germplasm. In the past, it has been unclear what office is responsible for making recommendations to international forums or for defining U.S. actions regarding the management of genetic resources. Opinions expressed by scientists, administrators, and advisers seemingly disappeared in the interagency bureaucracy. The NPGRB, as an adviser on germplasm issues, could take the lead in discussing these issues. However, there must be a mechanism for acting on its recommendations. The United States should become a member of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The United States does not participate in the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources as a member, nor is it a signatory to the FAO

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources. The commission is an important forum for discussing international issues related to cooperation, exchange, and ownership of genetic resources, particularly with developing nations. Until recently, the NPGS was not officially represented in the observer delegation sent by the United States to commission meetings. The NPGRB has only recently begun to discuss the possibility of U.S. participation in the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources. It passed a resolution on November 14, 1989, recommending that the United States become a member of the commission. In August 1990, the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State notified USDA that it concurs. No actions have been taken or recommended by the NPGRB in regard to adhering, completely or with reservations, to the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources or supporting an international fund established by FAO to support the genetic resources activities of commission members. Membership in the FAO commission does not imply agreement with all of its policies or positions. Because it is possible to join the commission without adhering to all or part of the undertaking, the United States could underscore its concern for genetic resources and gain a voice in this important international forum. Membership would enable the United States to help in shaping the agenda and activities of the commission. [The United States joined in September 1990.] The National Plant Germplasm System should cooperate with other nations to conserve, collect, maintain, and regenerate germplasm. U.S. germplasm activities have been largely guided by an unofficial policy of national self-sufficiency that calls for comprehensive collections to reduce dependence on other nations or collections. This policy frequently does not recognize the increasingly international nature of germplasm acquisition, management, and conservation, and the necessity to foster global cooperation. Other collections outside the United States not only hold important germplasm resources but can provide vital support to the NPGS. For example, cooperation on seed regeneration could allow a division of labor and costs among nations or institutions without sacrificing national self-interests. Many nations, especially those with rich genetic diversity, are reluctant to allow collection and exchange by foreigners. The United States must seek to preserve open and unrestricted exchanges of germplasm. The United States has international base collection responsibilities for maize, but there are no U.S. experimental facilities suitable for regenerating accessions of high-elevation, short day, Andean maize landraces. Agree-

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System ments with other nations are needed for regenerating germplasm materials for which suitable environmental conditions do not exist in this country. The United States should expand its support of cooperative activities with the international agricultural research centers affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. In 1989, the United States, through USAID, provided about $42 million of the annual budget ($272 million) for core operations of the CGIAR centers and contributed additional funding for special projects. Only a small portion of these funds support germplasm activities. Individuals within the national system work cooperatively at times with scientists in CGIAR institutes (e.g., the NSSL holds partial duplicate collections of rice, maize, wheat, and beans), but there are no formal agreements or coordination of germplasm activities between the research centers and the national system. In particular, greater collaboration between the NPGS and the IBPGR should be encouraged. The sharing and exchange of computerized inventories and data on germplasm could enhance the sharing of responsibilities between international institutions and the national system for managing many large collections. Back-up storage at the National Seed Storage Laboratory of the rice collection from the International Rice Research Institute and the cooperation of the NPGS in designating many of its collections as international base collections are examples of cooperation. There is little formal sharing of computerized passport, characterization, or evaluation data between the NPGS and the CGIAR research centers, and no real attempt to standardize data records between them. Many individual scientists and research facilities have developed working relationships with counterparts at the research centers. For example, the regional station in Pullman, Washington, cooperates with the CIAT in Columbia on beans and with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India on chickpeas. The North-Central regional station cooperates with the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) in Mexico on maize. There is, however, little formal interaction between the NPGS and international organizations. The NPGS and the CGIAR's research centers develop descriptors for characterization and evaluation of germplasm independently. The United States should seek to use descriptors and other data that are compatible with the centers to improve exchange of information on collections.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System The United States should work with neighboring countries to establish a North American cooperative program in genetic resources. Both Canada and Mexico have national plant germplasm systems. The NPGS has cordial relations with the genetic resources staffs of both countries. Canada, Mexico, and the United States could benefit from closer linkages and access to materials held by each. Responsibility for specific collections could be shared among them. Other advantages include cost savings for the participants; facilitation of regeneration, germination testing, and quarantine; expansion of the total range of materials accessible to each nation; and increased security, provided by backup for selected collections. As part of this cooperation, representatives of the Canadian and Mexican germplasm programs could hold ex officio membership in the NPGRB. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT The NPGS has a total of about 380,000 accessions. However, many computer records are incomplete and lack even the most basic descriptive information. Increased funding has made possible some updating of information on priority accessions, but this is a continuing process and must be sustained. The cooperation of all users of NPGS germplasm is essential to gather information about accessions. Recipients of germplasm should share their evaluation and other data with the NPGS. The system's information, which covers collection inventories and germination records to evaluation data and exchange requests, is managed by the Database Management Unit (DBMU) using the Germplasm Resources Information Network. As noted earlier, the database was set up to serve as a central information repository, begin the standardization of crop descriptors and evaluation information, and help curators manage collections. These are three very different functions. The first entails obtaining and storing detailed information about accessions and requires sophisticated data retrieval capabilities. The second is a data classification activity for uniform and efficient data handling. The third is inventory control to help collection managers. The problem is that in developing a database system, modifications that help one function may hinder the others. The committee questioned whether it is appropriate to pursue a single, all-encompassing system to accomplish these differing tasks. For example, it is possible to develop standardized descriptors, but much of the available entry data may not be expressed in a form compatible with them. In fact, GRIN record formats for individual accessions contain lists of crop descriptors for which little, if any, data have been entered.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System Completion of the Database The Germplasm Resources Information Network must better reflect the collections of the National Plant Germplasm System. An accurate directory, or central database, of all of the holdings of the national system is essential. The GRIN was intended to be a central data facility. While the structure and operation of the database management system are in place, the NPGS has experienced difficulties and delays in locating, correcting, and loading data that accurately represent its holdings. Access to a directory will make it possible to determine what materials are in the collections and where they are located. A directory would be a valuable tool for establishing priorities and focusing activities. The GRIN includes inventories of the PI numbers and of several site collections, such as holdings of the NSSL and the clonal germplasm repository at Miami, Florida. The site inventories include items without PI numbers and materials that are not considered part of the national collections. Thus, no single set of inventory numbers can be used to assess the accessions of the NPGS. Further, the GRIN database still does not contain all inventories of all sites. Accession records for much of the clonal germplasm, for example, remain to be entered. Thus it is not yet possible to determine the total inventory of the NPGS. Individual sites generally have inventories of all of the germplasm that they hold. The NSSL, for example, has conducted an inventory of its holdings to confirm their active status, reduce duplication, and eliminate redundancies. Holdings listed in other collections within the system can range from diverse accessions for a particular species to germplasm represented by only a single accession. For example, the list of germplasm holdings provided to the committee by the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, contains several listings of single accessions representing a species. The national germplasm collections should contain those plant materials held for the purpose of providing a broad, accessible germplasm base. Individual plants may be the only germplasm source and may point to the need for additional material if the species has economic or other value. Passport and Descriptor Data A high priority should be placed on completing the listings on the Germplasm Resources Information Network with basic passport and descriptor data. The major weakness of NPGS database management is not the

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System functioning of the GRIN, but the paucity of data, even for listed accessions. Few records examined by the committee contained useful information. Evaluation data were particularly lacking. There are bits and pieces of data for various crops, but so much is missing that it is difficult to search the collections of many crops for particular characteristics. The GRIN staff, of about 10 people, is largely responsible for programming, not data preparation. The DBMU has made major improvements in the network and is developing an increasingly fast and efficient system. However, it is difficult to separate the function of a database management system such as GRIN from the completeness of the database it serves. The NPGS must obtain accurate information (especially passport data, much of which is in PIO records). The accessions not presently listed must be added to the database. The absence of this information makes the network of limited usefulness to most researchers and breeders. The responsibility for completing GRIN files must fall to the central authority who would control the necessary personnel and funds. Evaluation and characterization descriptors should be reviewed to determine whether or not they are appropriate for the purposes of the network and likely to be completed. For nearly all of the crops examined, a large proportion of descriptors listed have no data. During the course of its investigations, the committee was told of various plans for adding new kinds of data to GRIN. These included data on endangered wild plants, livestock resources, and other genetic resources. Adding these data to GRIN should not be considered until the present NPGS databases are more complete. Increasing and revising network software or enlarging the hardware to allow for the addition of new kinds of data should not, in the committee's view, compete for personnel and funding resources that should first be devoted to completing the present database. Accessibility of Data The National Plant Germplasm System should continue to seek mechanisms for making the information held in the Germplasm Resources Information Network more easily accessible to scientists and crop specialists in the United States and abroad. The network has two basic kinds of clients: those who supply information and those who request it (Mowder and Stoner, 1989). The DBMU has issued about 450 public access codes to persons outside the NPGS. As of February 1990 about 80 of those had logged on to GRIN in the preceding 6 months (J. D. Mowder, U.S. Department of Agri-

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System culture, personal communication, January 1990). While many improvements have been made in GRIN that make obtaining information and ordering germplasm easier, data retrieval is slow when compared with the speed of many microcomputers. Many users seeking germplasm do not require a rapid response, and the DBMU has performed searches on request and supplied printed results (Mowder and Stoner, 1989). The NPGS could prepare standardized, printed searches for the more frequently used collections. Individual crop databases should also be made available on diskettes, in a form that can easily be accessed by commercially available software. RESEARCH Research is an essential part of genetic resources management. Improvements in long-term seed preservation, seed viability testing, optimization of regeneration procedures, and determination of population size to minimize drift require mission-oriented research. Advances in tissue culture and cryopreservation may require basic research into the processes underlying cell physiology, development, and regulation. Such initiatives and research activities must complement the principal objectives of the NPGS to preserve, regenerate, document, and distribute plant germplasm. Research Agenda A research advisory committee should be established to assess and guide the system's research activities. While some research effort is undertaken by NPGS scientists, there is no guidance as to the most urgent needs. No group within the national system oversees the development of systemwide research goals and priorities. NPGS research should improve the acquisition and maintenance of plant germplasm and promote its use. Its goal should not exclusively be to elucidate basic principles, but should include application of technologies and principles to the broad range of NPGS germplasm. Research within the national system should be focused on the problems of germplasm acquisition, maintenance, evaluation, characterization, and use. The research advisory committee would comment on the research plans of NPGS scientists. Its recommendations could then be used by the NPGRB and the leader of the NPGS in developing budget and programmatic priorities for the national system.

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System The research advisory committee could also suggest what work might best be accomplished on a contractual or competitive grants basis. This would provide a means for allocating funds for one-time research needs of relatively short duration for which permanent staffing would be inappropriate. Program Review External peer review of research should be conducted. Research programs should be periodically evaluated by a panel of scientists from outside the NPGS. While efforts have been made recently to improve communication between research scientists in the NPGS, the committee felt that the existing in-house peer review of research performance lacked sufficient rigor to ensure that the best possible research is brought to bear on the needs of the national system. Both individual scientific efforts and a site's overall program of research should be reviewed. The reviews should be overseen by the leadership of the NPGS and could be conducted through the proposed research advisory committee. Promoting Research Funds should be made available for competitive, goal-directed research in areas of specific need. There are many capable research scientists who are not part of the national system, but who can undertake research related to plant germplasm. The NPGS must develop a mechanism for providing support to these individuals or institutions to accomplish research essential to its needs. The guidelines for a program of competitive research funding could be developed by the research advisory committee described above. If funds were provided through the USDA Competitive Research Grants Office, there would be no need to establish a separate program within the NPGS. The research advisory committee's guidelines ensure that only appropriate, mission-oriented, or basic studies would be funded. Alternatively, the NPGS could administer a limited effort of its own, through its central office and in cooperation with the research advisory committee. One model program was outlined in a report to the National Plant Genetic Resources Board, Basic Research Support Program for the National Plant Germplasm System (an unpublished report of the NPGRB approved in the minutes of its October 98–10, 1985, meeting). The goal of this effort was to encourage and facilitate research by scientists in

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MANAGING GLOBAL GENETIC RESOURCES: The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System the public and private sectors that would lead to improved germplasm collection, documentation, preservation, maintenance, evaluation, enhancement, and utilization. Scientists in the NPGS should also be allowed to compete for this funding. Research would be directed toward developing new information and methods. The NPGRB report estimated that the program would not cost more than $5 million annually. Many areas of research are of importance to improving germplasm management. Examples include methods for long-term maintenance of seed and clonal germplasm (e.g., cryopreservation), nondestructive methods for assessing seed viability, elucidation of rapid, reliable techniques for detecting pathogenic organisms in germplasm, and molecular techniques to characterize, evaluate, or identify and enhance germplasm accessions. CONCLUSION Effective management of the nation's germplasm resources is essential to ensure the present and future security of U.S. agriculture. The conclusions of Nelson Klose more than 40 years ago remain true today (Klose, 1950:139). It seems certain that plant research and introductions of the future not only will contribute new food crops, but will aid as well the progress of mechanical and chemical technology. Often when experimenters develop disease-resistant plant varieties, the disease organisms in turn adjust themselves by developing new virulent strains. Redesigning plants with the desirable characteristics of many species fused into a single new variety offers a limitless challenge to plant workers. Like the introductions of Colonial days, the plants of tomorrow become America's crop heritage for future generations. As a participant in global efforts to conserve germplasm, the United States can expect greater benefits and responsibilities. The actions recommended in this report are intended to prepare and equip the National Plant Germplasm System as an effective component of national and international agricultural security.