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Multi-Crop Passport Descriptors – a universal language for plant genetic resources


The descriptors list provides an international format and a universally understood language for exchanging data on plant genetic resources. Originally published in 2001, the list of Multi-Crop Passport Descriptors was developed to provide consistent coding schemes for common passport descriptors across crops and is widely used as the international standard to facilitate germplasm passport information exchange.


After 11 years, in order to ensure the Multi-Crop Passport Descriptors standard meets the community’s emerging needs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and Bioversity International initiated a consultation process for a revision that would enhance the applicability of the Descriptors without having any detrimental effect on the previously published version or its use for data exchange. Two significant developments since the 2001 version were the entry into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, together with its associated Multi-lateral System for Access and Benefit-Sharing, and the impact of using spatial information (geographic information systems, or GIS) to document plant genetic resources better.


The revision process involved consultation with some 300 people from 187 institutions in 87 countries. The broad perspective gained from CGIAR research centers, US Department of Agriculture, the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources and numerous national programmes in the Global South, together with the collaboration of FAO, gives this revised descriptors list the status of a valid and neutral international standard.



Photo: From top left to right: Wild onion; Potato and other tubers; Male coconut flowers; Chilli peppers - Credit: Bioversity International/D. Hunter; S. Padulosi; V. Johnson; L.Quiñones