Science - February 12, 2004

Wageningen researcher gets high position in CGIAR programme

Wageningen researcher Dr Theo van Hintum has been appointed leader of an international research programme intended to make genebank material quickly available to developing countries. ‘Unlocking Crop Genetic Diversity for the Resource Poor’ is one of the first examples of a new CGIAR strategy.

The programme is financed by CGIAR, the umbrella organisation consisting of a network of international agricultural research institutes that make ‘western’ scientific knowledge available to developing countries. Van Hintum, who works for the Centre for Genetic Resources (the Wageningen genebank), will go in search of methods for identifying drought-resistant plant varieties. His search will take the form of a pilot project to develop techniques to help researchers locate starting material quickly in large genebanks for use in developing new varieties.

With the change from financing institutes to financing research programmes, CGIAR is following the same path as the Dutch ministry of agriculture. The latter started a few years ago with channelling money into research programmes instead of the DLO institutes themselves. This enables CGIAR to involve external universities and research institutes in the work it does. By strengthening relations with important centres of research CGIAR hopes to gain quicker access to recent scientific knowledge. The programme is one of the first examples of the new strategy, and will have an annual budget of 16 million euros available for research. Van Hintum will head one of the five sub-programmes in the project.

Korné Versluis