The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced Thursday that it would join CIMMYT and ICARDA in the Global Rust Initiative (GRI). “Global wheat yields could be at risk if the stem rust spreads to major wheat producing countries,” said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf. The statement also said that FAO had confirmed the findings announced in January by CIMMYT, ICARDA and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) that the virulent wheat stem rust strain known as Ug99 had moved from Africa into the Arabian Peninsula. FAO went on to say that FAO, ICARDA and CIMMYT would support countries in developing resistant varieties, producing their clean quality seeds, upgrading national plant protection and plant breeding services and developing contingency plans. FAO urged countries in the potential path of the airborne fungus to increase their disease surveillance.
The FAO announcement follows close on the heels of the publication of two major stories about the wheat stem rust problem, one in Science and another in New Scientist and on visits to FAO by GRI coordinator, Rick Ward and by DG Iwanaga.