Safeguarding genetic heritage through biotechnology

Ecuador strengthens its capacities to conserve genetic resources supported by Costa Rica and Spain.

Biotechnology uses biological systems and living organisms or their derivatives to modify or create various products or processes (Biotechnology Center of Chile – Centro de Biotecnología de Chile, 2022). An increased production of food, antibodies and hormones, ecosystem recovery and genetic conservation of species (through germplasm banks) are among its main benefits.

Germplasm banks are specially important as they contain a collection of living plant material, in the form of seeds and spores, which is used to locate, collect and conserve plants which are considered a priority (Descubre Foundation, 2022). In addition to generating scientific knowledge to optimize the conservation and use of plant genetic resources, these banks contribute to food security and sustainable agriculture (Descubre Foundation, 2022).

According to the National Biodiversity Institute of Ecuador (INABIO by its Spanish acronym), this Andean country is one of the most biologically diverse worldwide and it faces various threats. In this sense, its conservation has been considered of strategic interest for the Ecuadorian State (INABIO, 2021).

Accordingly, the project “Capacity building for the implementation of the National Germplasm Bank of Ecuador supported by the Biotechnology Research Center (CIB by its Spanish acronym) of the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC by its Spanish acronym)”, was approved in the framework of Phase 4 of the Triangular Cooperation Program between Costa Rica and Spain in Latin-America and the Caribbean. This initiative is aligned with the Ecological Transition, green recovery and decarbonization component of the Agreement between Spain and Costa Rica (AECID, 2022).

Thus, different technical missions were carried out in Ecuador and Costa Rica between 2021 and 2022, and several virtual sessions were also held as part of this project’s activities. Specifically, the strategies Costa Rica implements for the valuation and use of its biodiversity were reviewed and practical training was provided in plant biotechnology for seed cryopreservation (project’s Final Report, 2022).

These exchanges allowed further development of collaborative links between different institutions in both countries, including diverse stakeholders such as local producers, research institutes, faculties of biotechnology and agricultural science, and government offices in charge of genetic resource management (project’s Final Report, 2022).

It is also worth noting other similar initiatives carried out at the regional level in this topic such as Semillas para el Futuro (Seeds for the Future), developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT by its Spanish acronym) in Colombia, which donates seeds to countries with food shortages in East Africa, Eastern Europe, Oceania and other countries in America (El Español, 2021) and will conserve the genetic wealth of more than 67,000 different plant samples.

Finally, through this project, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Spain mainly contribute to the achievement of SDG 15 (Life on land), SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 2 (Zero hunger).

August 2023


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation, AECID (2022), BBC (2022), Biotechnology Center of Chile – Centro de Biotecnología de Chile (2022), El Español (2021), Descubre Foundation (2022), INABIO (2021).

Photos: Project’s Final Report and Directorate for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica.