YACON: THE EXPENSE OF SPIRIT IN A WASTE OF SHAME
(SEE VIDEO) YACON PERUANO: QUI TACET CONSENTIRE VIDETUR
Ref: 2001 Report of the 12th Session held in Aurangabad, India
From: Noel Pallais
Esteemed Members of CGIAR-GRPC (Genetic Resources Policy Committee),
It is my moral obligation—as the former CIP International Staff (Head of Seed Unit) responsible for Germplasm Acquisition and Distribution during the period alluded in the February 2001 Report of the 12th Session held in India—to rectify the false statements therein contained. I am specifically referring to the comments in Item 7 under Update on Centre-FAO Agreements, which are reproduced and listed (bold letters) below.
1. The Committee also discussed recent allegations by some critics concerning an infringement by the International Potato Centre (CIP) of its agreement with FAO. The Committee was requested to place this item on its agenda by CIP and by the NGO alleging that CIP had acted improperly.
Together, Dr. Zosimo Huaman and I have diligently worked as scientists for more than 40 years to enhance the image of CIP. We have never been critics of CIP. I dare say that I was among the most effective scientists enhancing the image of CIP in Peru between 1997 and 2000. Dismissing as such (“some critics”) the source of this serious matter reveals the devious intention to mislead and cover up the truth.
2. The Committee thus had access to information from both the critics of CIP and CIP itself.
The positive CIP commendation of the committee wisely begins with the proviso, “On the basis of the information provided…” Unfortunately, I was not aware the GRPC was seeking evidence about what actually occurred. Moreover, I only got to read the Report last week. Let me assure you that your honorable Committee could not have reached the same conclusion if it had access to all the pertinent information available in this serious matter.
3. Initially, Japan requested access to these materials, which CIP had designated under its agreement with FAO.
Mr. V. Aritomi made the initial request personally to me over the phone. He was the Ambassador of Peru to Japan and brother in law of then President Fujimori. Mr. Aritomi (not Japan) asked “me” as Head of CIP Seed Unit (“not CIP”) for as many different accessions of Yacon as he could take back to Japan.
4. CIP indicated to Japan that the requested accessions may be diseased, and stated that it would transfer them only with the proper phytosanitary certificates.
The conversation between the Peruvian Ambassador to Japan and the Head of Seed Unit at CIP could have never included the subject of plant health. Had Aritomi agreed to comply with the requirements I politely listed, my office would have only considered clean materials. It was my responsibility to uphold this requirement for all international distribution, except for rare cases of repatriation outside of Peru. And I took my job very seriously. Aritomi cut short our conversation after I politely denied his petition to forgo regulations seeming decided to go “over my head”. I did not expect CIP management would yield to the pressure stemming from three years of waiting for Fujimori to make up his mind about the long overdue CIP request for extension of its contract to establish Headquarters in Peru.
5. Subsequently, the Ministry of Agriculture of Peru requested restoration of these same materials.
”Officially”, the subsequent request came from the Institute of National Natural Resources (INRENA) and not The Ministry of Agriculture of Peru (MINAG). While INRENA is under the jurisdiction of MINAG, they are separate entities. INRENA was under the direction of CIP Board member Dr. J. Takahashi, also former CGIAR Board member. One week after my conversation with Aritomi, Dr. Takahashi verbally requested the Yacon materials through Dr. Fernando Ezeta, Regional Representative for Latin America. Upon my office receiving this information, I went to discuss my obvious suspicion with my immediate superior Dr. Wanda Collins, Director of Research. She persuaded me to authorize the INRENA request because I could not substantiate my suspicion. Indeed, I based my decision to approve the request made by INRENA on Article 9 of the FAO-CGIAR Agreements, in which CIP is required to supply materials to the country that provided them freely and unconditionally.
5. The Ministry of Agriculture subsequently supplied Yacon materials – presumably those that had been provided by CIP – to Japan.
The term “presumably” falsely attempts to depict CIP as an innocent bystander. Readily available evidence clearly shows Aritomi effectively bypassed my authority by using Takahashi to “pressure” CIP management for these materials. CIP agreed to the operation based on the legal protection afforded by INRENA, which would serve as [phantom] go-between. In a subsequent recorded conversation held with Dr. Ezeta, he candidly reveals that Takahashi had clearly informed him the Yacon plants were for Aritomi to take to Japan. He also explains the decision to “go ahead” was made after he discussed the matter with Deputy DG, Dr. J. Valle-Riestra. I became aware my superiors had known all along that my suspicion was correct—and led me to believe otherwise—when the driver from INRENA came to CIP to collect the plants. He expressed his hurry because the plane taking the Yacon plants to Japan was departing soon. I did not make an official report until I was able to inform the Germplasm Committee of this serious situation during the first meeting “presided by Wanda Collins”. This occurred on 7 February 2000, and soon after my recent 3-year contract was cancelled. My assistant Ms. Aurora Cornejo who witnessed all this was also fired.
Providentially, I obtained documented evidence of this serious cover up attempt described above when I was packing to leave my office. The documents (available upon request) confirming the safe arrival of the Yacon materials to Japan was forwarded by INRENA to CIP Regional LAC office. Following standard procedure these papers were sent to my office. These documents and the recorded subsequent conversations with Dr. Hubert Zandstra Director General and Dr. Fernando Ezeta, LAC Regional Rep. (audio and transcripts available upon request) unquestionably reveal higher CIP management had full knowledge of the triangular operation.
“Thus spake Zarathustra: With whom rests the greatest danger to the whole human future? Is it not with the good and just? Whatever harm the wicked may do, the harm of the good is the harmfulest harm!” — F. Nietzche