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AEGIS Project Report

with Recommendations to the ECP/GR Steering Committee

Sharing of long-term conservation responsibilities as a possible model for


“A European Genebank Integrated System” (AEGIS)

Introduction and description of the AEGIS project


The present project report with recommendations represents the compiled outcome of the
two-year feasibility study (project) to promote the establishment of a European Genebank
Integrated System (AEGIS). The project was initiated during the summer 2004 and
finalized during the summer 2006.

In October 2003 at the ninth meeting of the European Cooperative Programme for Crop
Genetic Resources Networks (ECP/GR) Steering Committee, the project on sharing of
responsibilities as a possible model of AEGIS was approved for funding under the ECP/GR
budget. The ECP/GR Secretariat formulated a draft proposal for the selection of the AEGIS
Steering Committee members, model crops, project partners, and terms of reference for
the project manager. This proposal was circulated, commented upon and in January 2004
finally approved by the ECP/GR SC.

The project has been described in the document “Sharing of long-term conservation
responsibilities as a possible model for ‘A European Genebank Integration System’
(AEGIS)”. Furthermore, a Web Site on the AEGIS project was launched in May 2004
containing all information, relevant documents, meeting reports and updates on activities.
The AEGIS web site is available on line at: www.ecpgr.cgiar.org/AEGIS/AEGIS.htm.
Birgitte Lund was appointed as project manager at IPGRI and was responsible for the
AEGIS project from August 2004 to April 2006. She continued on a consultancy basis
during the summer to prepare, among other documents, the AEGIS Final Report.

Eleven AEGIS Steering Committee members were selected on the basis of their personal
expertise including their technical capacities, plus representatives of relevant stakeholder
institutions. Eva Thörn was elected Chair of the AEGIS Steering Committee. The Steering
Committee has met at two formal meetings both at IPGRI in Rome. The first meeting took
place in March 2004 and the second in June 2005. At the last meeting the AEGIS Steering
Committee had a separate meeting, and a joint meeting with the AEGIS Project Partners
as well as a joint meeting with the Global Crop Diversity Trust. In addition, an informal
subgroup meeting of the AEGIS Steering Committee members was held in Rome in
November 2004 during the up-start process of the project.

The four selected model crops in the feasibility study are Allium, Avena, Brassica and
Prunus all conserved in ex situ European collections. These crops require different
conservation methods and management practices. Avena and Brassica can be conserved
using seed propagated material which can be dried to low moisture content and stored at

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low temperatures, e.g. in deep freezers, and are respectively mainly self-pollinating and
cross-pollinating species. Allium and Prunus are vegetatively propagated and must be
conserved in field genebanks or in vitro. Avena and Brassica are included in Annex I of the
International Treaty on Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,
whereas Allium and Prunus are not.

During September 2004 eleven individual countries via their respective national
coordinators, the five Nordic countries via the director of the Nordic Gene Bank and the
nine countries represented by the South East European Network on Plant Genetic
Resources (SEEDNet) via the SEEDNet coordinator were invited and confirmed their
participation in the AEGIS project. The technical AEGIS project partners, representing a
total of 25 European countries are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. For each country the AEGIS project partner is given for the respective model crop they have
been involved with.
COUNTRY CROP
Allium Avena Brassica Prunus
Czech Republic Ladislav Dotlacil Zdenek Stehno
France Jean Koenig Emilie Balsemin
Germany Joachim Keller Christoph Germeier
Hungary ZsuannaBekefi/JanosApostolo
Italy Vito Miccolis Daniela Giovannini
Netherlands Chris Kik Noortje Bas
Nordic countries Lene Christensen BentSkovmand/GertPoulsen
Poland Z. Bulinska-
Radomska
Russian Federation Igor Loskutov
Spain Pedro Garcia Garcia Jose Iriondo
Ukraine Victor Ryabchoun
United Kingdom Dave Astley Ken Tobutt
SEEDNet Vladimir Meglic Vladimir Ognjanov

The technical project partners were expected to have three meetings during the project
period. However, two meetings were organized, the start-up meeting in November 2004
and the mid-term meeting in 2005. At the mid-term meeting a joint session between the
AEGIS project partners and the AEGIS Steering Committee members was also organized.
The planned final meeting in July 2006 was cancelled due to the departure of Birgitte Lund
to a new job, and the need to focus on the preparation on an EC AGRI GEN RES project
proposal in June 2006. However, during the AEGIS project period, AEGIS discussions also
took place at an Avena ECP/GR sub Working Group meeting November 2004, at a regular
ECP/GR Prunus Working Group meeting in December 2005 and at a combined joint and
individual ad hoc ECP/GR sub-Working Group meeting for Allium and Brassica in January
2006 to discuss the recommendations of their respective AEGIS project partner crop
groups for the development of European collections. Additionally, members representing all
four crop model subgroups had the occasion to meet and discuss AEGIS in the context of
the ECP/GR Network meetings in March 2006. During the feasibility study the project
partners have also involved and consulted the respective ECP/GR Crop Working Groups in
order to build consensus during the development of an integrated genebank system in
Europe.

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As a follow up to lessons learnt and outputs from the project partner start-up meeting it was
decided to establish a Local AEGIS Task Force at IPGRI, consisting of Birgitte Lund,
Ehsan Dulloo, Jan Engels, Lorenzo Maggioni and Jozef Turok. The Task Force started to
formulate a vision paper on how to develop an integrated genebank system and how to
obtain future task sharing among genebanks and other germplasm collection holders in
Europe. This paper is today renamed “A Strategic Framework for the Implementation of a
European Genebank Integrated System – Discussion Paper” (IPGRI 2006) and is among
the main outputs of the feasibility study. The Discussion Paper was prepared by the Local
AEGIS Task Force at IPGRI during a consultative process with the AEGIS Steering
Committee members and the technical AEGIS Project Partners. It describes the
operational principles of an integrated genebank system in Europe and the implementation
process including the benefits obtained with the establishment of such a system. The
document has been circulated among the ECP/GR Steering Committee members in spring
2006. It is expected that the ECP/GR SC members during their mid-term meeting in
September 2006 will endorse and accept the Discussion Paper of the AEGIS Strategic
Framework for publication. Publication of the Discussion Paper will be an important public
awareness initiative in order to raise awareness about AEGIS among various stakeholders
and at different levels, especially at the policy-making level, as well as to encourage further
debate about the technical and policy issues associated with developing such an ambitious
system.

Purpose of the AEGIS feasibility study


The project objectives are to ensure conservation and continuing use of existing crop
genetic diversity in Europe based on a regional effort, rather than on individual national
levels, and thus to promote the establishment of a European Genebank Integrated System
(AEGIS).

The output of the project consists of a set of recommendations, based on the analysis of
organizational, structural, technical, legal and financial aspects.

The present report is mainly based on four individual crop subgroup reports prepared by
the technical AEGIS project partners and from their input during the feasibility study in
consultation with the members of the respective ECP/GR Crop Working Groups. The four
individual crop reports are included as Appendices 1-4 respectively, and consultation of
these documents is recommended for more detailed information on each species.

In the following sections the compiled recommendations and conclusions from the four
crop sub-groups are presented according to the requested activities/questions to be
answered during the feasibility study:

Models for AEGIS:


o Decentralized system
o Partly centralized system
o The old base collection concept
Organizational structures and institutional relationships

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Most Appropriate Accession
Safety Duplication
o The European Central Crop Databases
o Quality Standards
Legal issues / elements
Financial support
Application to other crops

Models for AEGIS:


The four model crop subgroups have all established a common goal to develop a
European (AEGIS) Crop Collection of each of the respective species within the European
Genebank Integrated System. In all cases, the groups have proposed that accessions that
have been accepted and designated to the system as “AEGIS Accessions” will be ensured
safe long term conservation as well as being freely available and easily accessible for bona
fide users.

Decentralized system:
The decentralized system is an approach for sharing conservation responsibilities on an
accession basis. In the decentralized system, accepted and designated AEGIS Accessions
will be ensured long term maintenance by the country offering the accession to the system.
Most often and preferably this country will be the country of origin of the accession which
will also maintain the AEGIS Accession in the participating genebank or collection holder
within this country.

The advantage of the decentralized system is that it builds on existing collaborations.


Furthermore, the decentralized system requires minimal changes in infrastructure,
maintains genetic resources in the country of origin and maintains local expertise and
knowledge as well national acknowledgement. Such a system will have a buffer capacity,
for example from changes in political priorities and scientific programmes and preferences
within the countries. In the case of Brassica, it was taken into consideration that different
cultivar groups are used within the region, with different breeding purposes, and that
utilization can be promoted and supported more when close to the conservation site. Also,
local knowledge of the different crops and better environmental and growing conditions
make the decentralized option preferable. The Avena group has considered that economic
considerations are not of primary importance and that it is important to preserve the local
knowledge of curators, which is associated with the conservation tasks; easier access to
the material which is conserved locally rather than relying on a distant provider is also an
important element.
The potential disadvantage of a more complex management of a decentralized system was
highlighted by the Prunus group, which has however nonetheless preferred to opt for a
decentralized system.

It is recommended that the species Avena, Brassica and Prunus are conserved on an
accession basis in a decentralized system. Conservation in a decentralized system builds

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on the current plans of the respective ECP/GR Crop Working Groups. Also Allium seed
stored material is recommended to be maintained in a decentralized system.

Partly centralized system:


The partly centralized system is an approach for sharing conservation responsibilities on a
crop basis. Also in this system the overall purpose is to ensure that accepted and
designated AEGIS Accessions are maintained long term as well as available and
accessible for the benefit of the user community. However, in this system the maintenance
will be carried out within a limited number of genebanks or institutions which have the
capacity to take on the work load, and which have the technical and personnel capacities
to handle the actual species.

In the centralized system, the management might be more effective in economic terms
compared to the decentralized system. On the other hand centralization reduces the
number of people working with the actual crop genetic resources and thus may lead to a
reduced recognition and awareness of such genetic resources.

Concerning Allium in the feasibility study it was agreed to concentrate upon vegetatively
propagated material of garlic and shallot. Such Allium vegetative material is recommended
to be maintained on a crop basis in a system of a combination of limited centralization, i.e.
with the current facilities this will be within three countries, with the option of expanding in
the future with more national programmes. This can happen when other national
programmes have developed their techniques and the personnel are in place.

The limited centralization obtained through development of an Allium cryopreservation


network has the advantage of sharing the work load between countries. Collaboration will
be an essential component for future success. The selection of a partly centralized option
was dependent on the choice of cryopreservation as the ideal methodology. This requires
specialized centres, of which only a few currently exist in Europe. The disadvantage of
cryopreservation may be the potential availability of material for the users. However, this is
partly solved by maintaining a limited number of accessions under field conditions i.e. the
“Most Used Accessions” for direct use and tissue sampling. A cost benefit analysis carried
out by the group showed that, once the cryopreservation technique has been implemented,
it is significantly cheaper compared to maintenance of accessions under field conditions.

The old base collection concept:


In the start-up phase of the feasibility study the technical project partners discussed the old
base collection concept which has been described in a document by Jan Engels and Imke
Thormann entitled “IBPGR Global Register of Base Collections of Food Crops”.

This concept was analyzed by the Avena and Brassica groups. The technical project
partners concluded how important it is for any system to succeed to involve and get the
necessary support from the governments in the actual countries. Furthermore, for a system
to be a success it must be sufficiently formalized, rather than relying only on informal
agreements between institutions or even individuals. Financing must be available and
legally binding documents must be obtained and agreed upon by the governments. A valid

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element of the base collections concept was the establishment of a clear list of
responsibilities for the genebanks, although these were not implemented. Similarly, the link
between base and active collections was stated but not implemented. The missing link
between conservation and use was a major drawback, which should be avoided in the
case of AEGIS. In particular, the Brassica group is proposing the establishment of an
“Agricultural Platform”, which is an alliance between AEGIS and users. Breeding
companies in particular could use their economic power to lobby on national and EU level,
to obtain funding for the conservation of AEGIS accessions.
The terminology of active and base collections was considered to have become confusing
and ineffective, in its intention to link conservation and use. The adoption instead of active
and base samples is proposed.
The Avena group highlighted the valid idea of systematic safety duplication of all the
samples, which was one of the elements of the old base collection concept. However, the
absence of formalized agreements and national responsibilities was considered the weak
point also in this case. Other constraints of the IBPGR concept were identified in the
unfavorable policy setting, following the ratification of the Convention on Biodiversity.
Sufficiently advanced technology for the maintenance of a documentation system was also
lacking in the eighties, and this would have been essential to ensure transparency and
functionality of the system. The new policy environment, following the entering into force of
the International Treaty, and the current advanced technological options for documentation
allow to be more optimistic in the re-proposition of similar concepts based on sharing of
responsibilities for conservation.

Organizational structures and institutional relationships


The project partners all point at a number of the same elements which will be included in
the organizational structure of the integrated genebank system. These elements are the
various genebanks or collections holding germplasm, the respective European Central
Crop Databases, and the respective ECP/GR Crop Working Groups. Also the ECP/GR
National Coordinators, the ECP/GR Steering Committee and the ECP/GR Secretariat will
have a role to play.

Except for the Allium vegetatively propagated crops, the project partners recommend that
the conservation responsibility of the physical plant material should remain with the
national genebanks or collections already holding the plant material which will be accepted
and designated as AEGIS Accessions. Regarding the data of these accessions, it will
continue to be managed and maintained within the respective European Central Crop
Databases. The European Crop Database managers will collate accession data for
decision-making to be carried out by the respective ECP/GR Crop Working Groups or
elected smaller sub-groups of members. The Brassica subgroup points at the
establishment of ‘a central authorized body’, delegated to coordinate the implementation of
the responsibilities assigned to the ECP/GR Crop Working Groups, including the
monitoring function, and representing the collaborating partner genebanks or institutions.
An advisory Brassica group was also proposed, aimed at providing information and

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recommendations to the “central authorized body”.

The Avena subgroup further supports the idea of establishing a coordinating European
institution for each crop. The coordinating genebank or institution should be the overall
coordinator of crop conservation activities, whose tasks include managing the European
Central Crop Database, and crop genetic resources research programmes. Requirements
of the coordinating institutions include being experienced in all genebank conservation
activities both from the maintainer as well as from the user point of view, furthermore such
institutions should have a legally defined status and secured funding.

The organizational structures and institutional relationships have also been suggested and
described in the document “A Strategic Framework for the Implementation of a European
Genebank Integrated System – Discussion Paper” in the chapter ‘Description of a
European Genebank Integrated System (AEGIS)’. These are compatible with all the
proposals made by the groups.

Most Appropriate Accession


In the course of the feasibility study, the concept of the Most Original Sample has been
modified to the concept of the Most Appropriate Accession which has been agreed by all
four crop sub-groups. The Most Appropriate Accession was defined as an accession of an
original seed lot or seed sample that is genetically as close as possible to the original
population that it is intended to represent, and for vegetatively propagated material it shall
be true to name, held in the country of origin or introduced material of importance for
breeding and research and used in Europe, virus-free or of highest health status,
accompanied by passport data, and characterized morphologically or with markers. The
concept has been described in “A Strategic Framework for the Implementation of a
European Genebank Integrated System – Discussion Paper”.

In the ex situ AEGIS collections of the respective crops, only material of identified Most
Appropriate Accessions will be conserved. For each crop a more detailed description of the
material to be included in the respective AEGIS Crop Collection has been prepared, and is
included in their final crop reports. The Allium group gives more importance to breeding
and research rather than to the geographic origin. The Brassica group focuses on quality
standards. In all cases, further discussions will be necessary to define in more detail the
criteria for identification of the Most Appropriate Accessions.

Safety Duplication:
For each accepted and designated AEGIS Accession, i.e. Most Appropriate Accession, it is
recommended that an AEGIS Safety Duplicate Accession shall be stored in other
institutions or genebanks, and possibly an extra copy in the Svalbard Arctic Seed
Depository offered by Norway as an additional safety net for global food security. However,
formal agreements are necessary for such arrangements to hold Safety Duplicate
Accessions and must be in place before an AEGIS Accession is accepted to be designated

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to the system. The Allium subgroup reports that currently such exchanges of safety
duplicates are all inputs-in-kind under the ECP/GR and none of them are covered by a
formal agreement.

The European Central Crop Databases:


The European Central Crop Databases will be used to underpin the identification of the
Most Appropriate Accessions to be included in the respective European Crop Collection as
the accepted and designated AEGIS Accessions. Furthermore, during this initial search in
the Central Crop Databases, a parallel identification of potential duplicate accessions will
be performed. This approach to identifying the Most Appropriate Accession within a group
of potential duplicate accessions, using the Central Crop Databases, is the first step to be
taken to rationalize the collections, i.e. only to conserve the genetically unique and
important accessions for Europe within the European Genebank Integrated System.

In each of the four crop subgroup reports, clear descriptions are given on how and by
whom the European Central Crop Databases should be used as a tool for initiating the
identification of material to be included in the system as Most Appropriate Accessions
based on a few agreed criteria. Slightly different schemes are proposed by the crop
subgroups to enable them to identify such accessions which have been offered for
inclusion by the holding genebank or institute to be accepted and designated as AEGIS
Accessions in the respective European Crop Collections. The procedures range from semi-
automatized computerized systems towards less automatic types of searches. Flow
diagrams or similar descriptions for this procedure are included in the respective final
subgroup reports. However, none of the four crop subgroups have yet developed a
preliminary list of Most Appropriate Accessions. Procedures are however in place and are
waiting for each country to identify such accessions conserved in their country, that they
are prepared to offer to be designated as part of AEGIS and for which the country is
prepared to maintain the long term conservation responsibility. These AEGIS Accessions
will collectively constitute the respective AEGIS Crop Collections. These AEGIS Crop
Collections will constitute the genebank system with mostly decentralized conservation in
the countries, i.e. conserved in the same countries and within the same genebanks or
institutions where they are currently held, but with a centralized documentation system.

Among the most important steps are to update the respective European Central Crop
Databases and for the countries i.e. the national crop coordinators, to send a list of the
offered AEGIS Accessions to the Central Crop Database manager. The respective
ECP/GR Crop Working Group will then review the databases in order to identity accessions
to be accepted and designated as AEGIS Accessions in the respective European Crop
Collection. The AEGIS Accessions will be the unique and Most Appropriate Accessions
that will represent a complete and genetically diverse European collection.

To complement the search for the Most Appropriate Accessions in the respective Central
Crop Databases, it is recommended for the vegetatively propagated Allium that such
identification be confirmed through analysis with molecular markers. During the search for
the Most Appropriate Accession, often a number of accessions are identified as belonging
to a group of potential duplicate accessions. Preliminary searches will be performed via the

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Central Crop Databases and at the last stage a unique set of accessions will be taken for
molecular fingerprinting.

Accessions which have been proven to be duplicate accessions will not be maintained
within AEGIS. However, this does not impinge on the rights of the national programmes to
maintain such material within their national programmes for their own interest and work
priorities.

Quality Standards
Agreed crop-specific quality standards for conservation are necessary and must be met by
the collection holders and genebanks holding the identified and accepted AEGIS
accessions.

To have a transparent system all crop subgroups have agreed that written protocols in
English shall be available for all conservation procedures. Furthermore, it is essential that
routine audits of facilities and germplasm are conducted in order to be able to control the
quality in the integrated system. In general a set of agreed minimum standards for
management shall be applied for all AEGIS Accessions designated to the system.

The Allium subgroup will formulate a set of quality standards and standard operating
procedures for cryopreservation. It will be required that within the cryopreservation network
all partners work to an agreed minimum set of quality standard and accept routine audits of
their facilities and the AEGIS samples in cryopreservation. This shall be an essential
component of the collective Memorandum of Understanding with the national governments.

The Avena subgroup has identified the activities for which minimum quality standards
must be agreed upon and met by the AEGIS Accession holders. Such standards will be
based on existing and applied methodologies.

The Brassica subgroup has made a comprehensive survey on present practices in


collection management procedures of cultivated Brassica collections representing 16
collections in 11 countries. Based on the survey a set of minimum standards were agreed
to be met by collection holders and genebanks as a prerequisite to join AEGIS. Meeting the
crop-specific standards can be done without constraints. However, to meet some of the
generic (institutional) standards will be difficult for some genebanks and collections holders
and will need financial support. Furthermore, there is a need for scientific input for setting
standards for germination testing and intervals of germination monitoring.

The Prunus group recommends that for the standards of the AEGIS Accessions to be
long term conserved in European Prunus field collections the emphasis should be on
guidelines that are realistic, adequate and generally acceptable. In the subgroup report, the
different procedures to be followed for receipt of material, maintenance, re-propagation,
dispatch and disposal to users are described.

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Legal issues / elements
The technical project partners made it clear during the start-up phase that they are crop
experts and generally not dealing with legal and policy questions. Their input in this respect
would therefore only be limited. However, a number of legal issues have been identified
among the constraints right from the beginning, when the feasibility study was initiated. The
issues raised by the technical project partners have been taken forward to the AEGIS
Steering Committee and have been considered by the ECP/GR Secretariat and IPGRI
legal specialists.

Among the lessons learnt from the project partner’s start-up meeting, the need to further
outline advantages and benefits obtained by implementing AEGIS was shown. The project
partners emphasized from the beginning how important it is to raise awareness of the
benefits obtained in a rationalized system and to disseminate the vision widely, lobbying,
and convincing stakeholders all over Europe. Furthermore, the point was raised that from
experience so far it is apparent that there is a gap between the technical and policy-maker
levels. The project partners emphasized the importance of minimizing this gap and that this
would be among the major challenges of the project to obtain success of the feasibility
study and for the further implementation of a European Genebank Integrated System after
the feasibility study.

Another obstacle is that the legal status of the plant genetic resources collections within
many countries is not clear. It is unknown whether the national governments take the
responsibility for them. This is still among the obstacles to be overcome. Furthermore, plant
material kept in private collections is often not under governmental control, which must also
be taken into consideration. Clarification on the legal status of proposed AEGIS Accessions
is therefore needed and the establishment of an appropriate legal framework is strongly
recommended, except in the case of the Prunus group, which believes that formal
agreements are not essential.

Phytosanitary considerations were also listed for consideration by the Avena group, in
order to ensure safe distribution of accessions to the users.

Financial Support
From the beginning, the project itself had a deficit in its proposed and available budget.
Extraordinary funds have been received from Germany and the Netherlands and these
have been sufficient to cover the cost of the feasibility study (see financial report)

To obtain additional funds for the project, an AEGIS project proposal for concerted action
was submitted by the end of September 2006 for the first EC Regulation 870/2004 Call.
However, the AEGIS proposal was not accepted for funding but based on overall scores it

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was rated 8 out of 26 eligible proposals and was put on the reserve list. This proposal
scored very high on ‘relevance’. It was therefore decided to submit a proposal for targeted
action for the second EC Regulation Call with deadline 30 June 2006. Furthermore, a
proposal for the COST Open Call Proposal was submitted on 30 May 2006, but was not
accepted for funding.

However, it is not realistic to run AEGIS based on project funding. Instead a permanent
and legally defined financial input is necessary for any success of this system. To be able
to further develop, implement and run the European Genebank Integrated System it is
therefore important that funding is raised. National responsibility at government level must
be recognized, in order to secure the continuous financing of crop genetic resources. It is
therefore necessary that the ECP/GR member countries express their commitment and
ensure the necessary funding for the accessions they have offered and which the system
has accepted and designated as AEGIS Accessions. Furthermore, it is recommended that
the governments in the individual countries raise awareness and lobby at the European
level, e.g. within the EU, to make them responsible and to possibly obtain permanent EU
financing for maintaining the European Genebank Integrated System in the future.

The project partners have highlighted the financial aspect as an obstacle to implementing
and running the system. The Brassica subgroup stresses that financial support is needed
at national level to meet the common minimum quality standards required in collection
management procedures. The Allium subgroup has concluded that among the main
constraints are the lacks of funds for activation of the system (fingerprinting, staff and
facilities for cryopreservation). It is required to have initial increased investment for its
cryopreservation of the vegetatively propagated material, i.e. ‘activation energy’. These are
a few examples of how the implementation process itself of the system will need increased
expenditures. Other such costs may arise, for example for project planning and awareness
raising, clearance of agreements, setting up terms of reference, creating the framework for
implementation, organizing and implementing funding and monitoring mechanisms. Ideally
these set-up costs could be raised from appropriate sources as for example the EC.
However, it is assumed that each of the AEGIS member countries are in principle prepared
to cover the initial higher costs jointly, should it happen that no extra funds can be raised.

Application to other crops

The general principles developed for these pilot crops may be applied to most other crops
having similar characteristics as the pilot crops. However, different models will have to be
considered for different crops, on the basis of their type and storability of propagules
(seeds or vegetative parts), breeding system (self-fertilisation or outcrossing), multiplication
procedure (vegetative propagation, self-pollination, controlled pollination, panmixis) and
cultivar type (clone, line, hybrid or population).

The Avena subgroup considers its model to be applicable also to other self-pollinated
cereals such as wheat and barley. Data models for treatment of duplicates and software

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concepts are not crop-specific. It was considered that comparable choices can be made on
the basis of the size of the collections and of the cost of maintenance of single accessions.

The general principles developed for Prunus should also be relevant to the other ECP/GR
fruit crops Malus, Pyrus and Vitis, that are likewise temperate and clonally propagated on
to rootstocks. With minor adjustments these principles could be applied to most other fruit
crops and to vegetatively propagated timber trees.

Conclusion
The present compiled final report of the AEGIS feasibility study is submitted to the attention
of the ECP/GR Steering Committee as a background document for the mid-term meeting in
September 2006. This report, including the recommendations, is compiled to support the
ECP/GR Steering Committee’s decision-making to endorse and decide how to proceed
with the further implementation of the European Genebank Integrated System.

The analysis of the four subgroup reports and the results of the feasibility study can be
summarized by the following main conclusions:

Models for the European Genebank Integration System


There is not one model which can be generally applied, as each crop needs a different
solution. Even the choice of a similar model may come as a result of different arguments.
The specific analysis made by the four crop groups was concluded by proposing the
following systems:
o Decentralized system: Allium, Avena and Brassica seed propagated crops
and vegetatively propagated Prunus;
o Partly centralized system (expandable tripartite model): vegetatively
propagated Allium.

Lessons learned from the old IBPGR/FAO base collection concept


The concept of establishing base collections with clearly assigned responsibilities for
conservation and accessibility was valid in principle. However, a number of pitfalls were
identified and these should be carefully avoided in the case of AEGIS:
- The system should be sufficiently formalized and receive governmental support,
as opposed to relying on informal agreements between institutions or individuals;
- Financial needs should be anticipated and funds secured in order to guarantee
sustainability;
- The link between conservation and use should be strong and effective
(conservation for use);
- Documentation of the system should be transparent, complete and easily
accessible.

Organizational structures and institutional relationships


The four crop groups have made proposals that are suitable to their specific situation. In all

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cases, these are compatible with the existing ECP/GR framework and may benefit from its
maintenance and strengthening. In particular, sufficient legal basis and financial security
are considered essential. The organizational structure proposed in the “AEGIS Strategy
Framework Discussion Paper” is compatible with all the scenarios proposed by the crop
groups.

Legal elements to be considered


Although the crop groups were not able to fully address this point, it is evident that the legal
status of the accessions conserved in various situations is unclear to many stakeholders.
The need emerges for all the groups, for a clarification (and simplification) of the legal
framework in which to operate, although the expected level of formalization to be
implemented varies from group to group.

Concept of Most Original Sample


The concept of Most Appropriate Accessions has been introduced in the course of this
study and has been accepted by all groups as the most suitable and practical solution.
Therefore, the difficulty of objectively identifying the “most original” accessions has been
replaced by the crop-subjective need of defining the “most appropriate” accessions for
long-term conservation.

Guidelines on standards to ensure long-term conservation


Each crop group selected slightly different approaches to the definition of quality
guidelines, standards and procedures. However, in all cases, there is agreement that
standards should be agreed as a result of consensus decisions taken at the crop group
level. The need for external, independent quality certification procedures was expressed by
all groups, except Prunus. Ideas for implementation were proposed, such as “Network
audits”, “internal or external quality certification schemes” or the establishment of a
“Working Group on Seed Quality”. There is probably room and need for an AEGIS-specific
solution, to be further elaborated and agreed upon by the crop groups.
The need to secure financial resources in order to generally improve the standards was
also remarked.

Financial opportunities to support the system


All four crop project groups stressed that their proposals for creating the European
Genebank Integrated System will only come to fruition if the necessary funds are provided.
In particular, funding is required as ‘activation energy’ during the implementation process;
for example the Allium group has estimated such a period of about ten years.
Formalized commitments from national governments, as well as additional funds from
international sources are indicated as essential pre-requisites in order to establish the
system.

Application to other crops


The general principles developed for these model crops may be applied to most other
crops having similar characteristics to the respective model crops. Comparable choices
can also be made on the basis of the size of the collections and the cost of maintenance of
single accessions. General principles for organizational structures, quality ensurance

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schemes, data models for treatment of duplicates and software concepts are not crop
specific.

Draft cooperation agreement


It was originally planned that a draft cooperation agreement should have been compiled
during the feasibility study. During interactions with the IPGRI legal specialists it was
agreed that instead a Collective Memorandum of Understanding shall be drafted. The
development of such a Collective Memorandum of Understanding was planned to be
prepared as one of the first steps, if the continuation of the AEGIS initiative is endorsed
and its establishment initiated. It is foreseen that the Memorandum of Understanding will
be signed by each individual country and that these agreements collectively will form the
Memorandum of Understanding.

ECP/GR Network Coordinating Groups (NCG) meeting (Bonn, Germany, March 2006)
Accounts were given on the progress made by the AEGIS feasibility study and a possible
scenario for how a future AEGIS could be imagined. An important conclusion of this
meeting, referring to AEGIS, is the following:

“The meeting acknowledged a broad appreciation by the networks on the concept of


AEGIS as outlined in the Strategy Framework Paper, and the application of AEGIS in
order to create European Crop Collections.[…] The meeting recommends to the
ECP/GR Steering Committee to support the broad implementation of AEGIS, especially
including the need to accept obligations related to the national programmes.”

A Strategic Framework for the Implementation of a European Genebank Integrated


System
This discussion paper prepared by the IPGRI Task Force, in parallel with the development
of the feasibility study, is believed to be fully compatible with the results of the crop groups.
This paper includes a proposed description of a European Genebank Integrated System
and a proposed implementation process.
The NCG meeting in Bonn suggested that National Coordinators should consult with the
policy-makers before replying on the endorsement of the AEGIS discussion paper, which
was circulated by the ECP/GR Secretariat in March 2006.

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Recommendations to the ECP/GR Steering Committee
- Endorse the crop groups’ reports, confirming the validity of their different
approaches.
- Endorse the Strategic Framework for the Implementation of a European
Genebank Integrated System Discussion Paper as a generic approach to be
applied to all crops. Approve its publication as an ECP/GR product.
- Take note of the approach suggested in the AEGIS proposal submitted under the
second call of AGRI GEN RES Regulation 870/04, and provide any comment on
actions that should complement that project.
- Agree on starting the AEGIS implementation process, in particular through the
following actions to be pursued as project-funded or ECP/GR-funded
components:
1) Drafting of a collaborative MoU, to be opened for country signatures, with
the objective of formally establishing AEGIS;
2) Development of a Quality Management System for long-term conservation
of the AEGIS accessions;
3) Ensure that model crops activity can continue with the definition of AEGIS
crop collections and of medium-term conservation plans;
4) Survey institutional capacity and availability to participate in AEGIS.
- Lobby for and support a funding scheme in order to enable carrying out the four
points above, either through national commitment, or project proposals, or
regional commitment.
- Include an appropriate AEGIS budget line in Phase VIII of ECP/GR.

IPGRI, August 2006

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