In response to the inaccurate information put out by the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) concerning the potato collection in custody at the International Potato Center (CIP), the following clarification is hereby given:

  • CIP has not sent any accession from the potato collection as a security copy to this university’s facilities.
  • CIP has in its custody a total of approximately 4,400 accessions of cultivated and native potatoes from different countries, which make up what we call the potato collection.
  • CIP has security copies (also known as black box copies) in the form of in vitro cultivation (medium-term conservation method) of its potato collection, at its experimental station in Huancayo and also at EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária) in Brazil.

The black box practice is a standard international security measure used by germplasm banks, whose purpose is to protect the collection, to be used in the event of total or partial loss of the collection as a result of natural risks (fires, earthquakes) and/or political risks (war, acts of terrorism).  The black box agreements are clearly defined and do not permit the use or distribution of this material by the organizations that have the material in their custody.

In its ongoing efforts to ensure the best possible security worldwide, CIP also maintains a black box copy of the sweetpotato collection at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) [Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)] in Cali, Colombia (another CGIAR center).

Moreover, as part of its security strategy, CIP is discussing with Bioversity International (also a CGIAR center) the possibility that the latter institution might take on the conservation under the liquid nitrogen conservation method (or cryopreservation, a long-term conservation method, theoretically for more than 100 years) of the copy of part of its potato collection.  Bioversity International has the mandate to conserve the international banana and plantain collection (Musa), which is physically located at the Catholic University of Leuven.

We regret that bad use has been made of this incorrect information for the sole purpose of damaging our institution.  We want to inform the public that the University of Leuven has removed the information from its web site and has apologized for this error of misinformation.