The Germplasm Health Unit (GHU), which is part of the Genetic Resources Program at CIAT, obtained Official Registration as an approved laboratory to conduct phytosanitary diagnoses, through a resolution issued by the Government of Colombia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR), and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA).

Being Officially Registered means that all tests conducted at the laboratory will be approved and acknowledged by ICA for germplasm import or export.

All germplasm from the collections and the institution in general (seeds or in vitro plants) must be free from quarantine diseases for their conservation and distribution. For this purpose, all material is submitted to tests and analyses to guarantee their phytosanitary quality. Once approved, materials will be available for national or international distribution, as long as the phytosanitary certificate and the corresponding permissions are previously requested to ICA.

Many projects at CIAT currently need to import and export germplasm. At national level, we are the second laboratory registered at ICA and a member of the assay, test, and diagnostic laboratories network. With the official registration, the Center opens its doors to the provision of services, not only to internal units, but also to other entities that might require such services.

Maritza Cuervo

Head of the Germplasm Health Unit.

It is important to clarify that the current registration covers pathogen diagnosis tests for beans, forages, and cassava, but the service portfolio may be easily broadened to include other crops and pathogens.

The effort undertaken by the team started in November, 2015, when GHU began implementing a quality management system under the ISO 17025 standard, which involved the standardization of a total of 260 documents (quality, biosafety, disinfection, and cleaning manuals, as well as standard operating procedures for each process), training the staff, improving methodologies, acquiring reference strains of different pathogens, renewing equipment, and restructuring the facilities. Additionally, it was necessary to obtain permits from the Health Department of the Autonomous Regional Corporation of Valle del Cauca (CVC, in Spanish) and to coordinate with the maintenance area, legal office, and occupational health and safety.

In 2018, the team achieved the ISO standard and the required documentation to apply for registration at ICA. As a result, a technical audit was conducted by three officials, who obtained a satisfactory outcome with only three findings, which were clarified and closed in January this year.

Thus, the team received the resolution with the Registration at ICA, and now they must go on with the continual improvement process, maintaining the required standards and quality in their processes. “I would like to highlight this achievement, because the team performed and excellent work without external advisors. It is a success that demonstrates an outstanding contribution with a broad impact on the achievement of CIAT’s institutional goals in the short, medium, and long term,” noted Cuervo.

A tireless team

The Germplasm Health Unit has great multidisciplinary human talent, integrated by 11 people, coordinated by Maritza Cuervo.

Biological, serological, and molecular tests are conducted for the diagnosis of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and phytoplasmas. For these detections, the team has highly experienced professionals, such as biologist Julio César Ramírez, bacteriologist Angélica María Martínez, and biotechnology engineer Diana Niño.

Additionally, the team is integrated by technicians Lucely Muñoz, Alejandro Gutiérrez, Fabián Dorado, and Marisol Tamayo, as well as support staff, such as Arnobia Montes, Paola Andrea Quintero, and Andrés Eduardo Urrea, who are involved in the different processes carried out, as well as in maintaining the quality management system and monitoring and collecting samples from seed regeneration fields.

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