Ordering bananas online

Anne Vézina Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ordering material from the International Transit Centre in Belgium has just become easier.

The technology that revolutionized online shopping is now available on the MGIS website to order material from the International Transit Centre (ITC), the world’s largest collection of bananas. Most of the accessions on offer are cultivars, but the genebank also has breeders products, such as FHIA hybrids, as well as wild species, including DH Pahang, the accession whose genome was sequenced. Of the more than 1,400 accessions currently at the ITC, 841 are available for distribution, essentially the ones that have been indexed free of virus.

The first step of the process will be familiar to online shoppers used to adding items to a basket, but only users who have registered to the website will be able to proceed to the actual ordering, unless they are thwarted by the question about the FAO code of their institute. If the institute in question has a code, it is possible to look it up on the WIEWS website maintained by the FAO. The search results are idiosyncratically displayed, but if the country field is used for the search, the trick is to look for the list of institutes in a drop-down menu at the top of the results page. If a code has not been attributed, or is not known at the time of registering to the MGIS website, putting UNK999 will allow users to proceed and select the login and password needed to order online.

The ordering itself is fairly straightforward. After making their selection, users are given the choice of receiving the material (usually five samples per accession) as proliferating tissue cultures (multiple shoot clusters suitable for further multiplication and/or regeneration into plants) or in vitro rooted plantlets ready for soil planting. For a wide range of accessions, 50 mg of freeze-dried leaf tissue harvested from a greenhouse plant are also available. However, when more than one accession is requested, users are not given the possibility of ordering some accessions as rooted plantlets and others as leaf tissue, for instance. If they want different types of material, they have to place separate orders. At any rate, the average delivery time, from the time the necessary documents have been approved, varies from 2 months for proliferating tissues, to 4 months for rooted plants and 2 weeks for lyophilized leaves.

The next step consists in providing information for generating the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), which stipulates the terms and conditions under which the accessions are distributed. The SMTA is the mandatory model for parties wishing to provide and receive material under the Multilateral System of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Additional conditions may apply for the distribution of Material under Development (breeding materials acquired by Bioversity International from crop improvement programmes).

If the country where the material is to be sent requires a Plant Importation Permit, the request will be processed once the ITC has received the permit. When it is sent, the ITC material is accompanied by a health statement, a phytosanitary certificate and a copy of the SMTA.

For more information, contact Ines Van den houwe or Nicolas Roux

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