Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 757–772 | Cite as

The scientific information activity of Bioversity International: the descriptor lists

  • E. GotorEmail author
  • A. Alercia
  • V. Ramanatha Rao
  • J. Watts
  • F. Caracciolo
Review Article


This paper explores the history of descriptor lists (DLs)—scientific standards for documenting plant genetic resources—which have been published by Bioversity International since 1976 (formerly IBPGR 1974–1991; IPGRI 1991–2006). Each DL represents an important tool; together, they constitute the basis for a standardized characterization system that provides an internationally agreed format and universally understood ‘language’ for plant genetic resources data. The paper also presents an analysis of data collected through questionnaires and web statistics on the impact of DLs in order to understand their use by major stakeholders. The usefulness of Bioversity’s DLs was measured in terms of their value in facilitating the establishment of databases, and improving collaborations and information exchange among organizations. Most survey respondents reported that they not only used Bioversity’s DLs, but recognized them as the standards for plant genetic resources data collection and management. Bioversity’s DLs are widely respected because they are developed by large groups of crop specialists. Together, the DLs are helping Bioversity to meet the ambitious objective of establishing a Clearing-House Mechanism as set forth by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Article 18.3, which seeks to promote and facilitate information exchange among parties, Governments and stakeholders in order to assure a full implementation of the CBD. A number of areas for improvement were identified, although some of them are either outside Bioversity’s mandate or depend on human or financial capital for implementation.


Descriptor list Factor analysis Genebank management Information Plant genetic resources 



Asian Development Bank


Annual Project Work Plans


Crop Advisory Groups


Convention on Biological Diversity


Centre Commissioned External Reviews


Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research


Council for Mutual Economic Aid


Descriptor lists


Distinctness, uniformity and stability


Executive Information and Retrieval System


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation


Global Environment Facility


International Board for Plant Genetic Resources


International Plant Genetic Resources Institute


Information system genetic resources


The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture


Multi-crop Passport Descriptors


Principal component analysis


Plant genetic resources


Taxonomic Information Retrieval System


Understanding and Managing Biodiversity


United Nation Development Programme


Union Internationale pour la Protection des Obtentions Végétales


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Gotor
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Alercia
    • 1
  • V. Ramanatha Rao
    • 1
  • J. Watts
    • 2
  • F. Caracciolo
    • 3
  1. 1.Bioversity InternationalMaccarese, RomeItaly
  2. 2.CGIAR Institutional Learning and Change InitiativeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural Economics and PolicyUniversity of Naples ‘Federico II’NaplesItaly

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