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Summary and Recommendations

1. It was proposed and accepted that this Symposium henceforth be called the “Harlan Symposium.”

2. The Harlan Symposium achieved its objective by bringing together, for the first time in West Asia, archaeologists, archaeobotanists, plant scientists and crop-improvement experts, in order to exchange experiences and generate new theories and ideas. It established a linkage between the beginnings of agriculture and present plant-breeding efforts and brought together archaeology and plant science to meet the challenges of increased food production in the region and the world.

3. It was recommended that an international center be set up for conserving archival archaeobotanical material and disseminating information in West Asia (similar to the Asian Agri-History Foundation established at Secunderabad, India). A start can be made with establishing a world database of relevant publications, maps, information, etc. and making it available freely through the internet and CD-ROM.

4. It was recommended that IPGRI revise and expand its 1980 publication of English - Arabic “A Glossary of Plant Genetic Resources Terms,” to include archaeobotanical terms, and distribute it widely in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) and areas of the Fertile Crescent, so that decision-makers in the region are better informed about the importance of conservation of biodiversity as well as archaeobotanical sites.

5. The Symposium noted that in recent years there was a tendency for young scientists to move away from traditional taxonomic studies in favor of molecular biology and genetic engineering. It was recommended that in order to better identify and document the rich biodiversity of the region it was necessary to train taxonomists from universities and institutions in the Near East. The IPGRI-supported Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships Program could facilitate these studies and provide encouragement to young enthusiastic scientists in the region to take up plant taxonomy and ecology.

6. It was recommended that important works by Russian and Armenian genetic-resources scientists be translated and published in English for a wider audience. Dorofeev's wheat monograph and the one produced by Gandilyan were particularly cited as deserving translation.

7. It was recommended that some steps be taken to save traditional farming systems and indigenous knowledge as well as cropland ecology of the region. The wild progenitors of crop plants which have their origins in the Near East and their habitats need to be conserved for future sustainable use in crop-improvement programs.

8. The Symposium appreciated the distribution maps of the wild species shown on slides by Jan Valkoun of ICARDA's Genetic Resources Unit and other scientists. It was recommended that these maps would be extremely useful if published since they show existence of species from collecting sites which have not been reported before.

9. After the report by the participant from the Vavilov Institute (VIR) in St Petersburg, Russia, an opinion was expressed by the Symposium that greater efforts should be made by IPGRI to rescue VIR's genetic resources and other collections, including historical records of collecting trips, herbarium specimens, etc., and to conserve them in a better shape. It was noted that Spain had volunteered to multiply and rejuvenate some of VIR's germplasm collection free of cost in order to contribute toward this effort.

Similar apprehensions were expressed about the fate of genetic resources and archaeobotanical material assembled in Armenia and other Central Asian Republics due to total curtailment of funding. It was generally agreed that such “orphaned” collections and archaeobotanical material need to be rescued and their conservation ensured.

10. It was noted that crop-specific papers presented at the Symposium were dominated by those dealing with the cereals. Other crop-specific papers included two on legumes, and one each on safflower, opium poppy, cotton, sesame and olive. In future symposia on this subject, scientists working on other important crop plants, such as cucurbits and fruit trees as well as forest species, could also be invited to participate.

11. Participants observed that, while a great deal was known about the southern arc and the midsection of the Fertile Crescent, little recent information was available about the northeastern arc which includes parts of southeastern Turkey and northeastern Iraq and Iran. It was recommended that efforts be made to document the biodiversity and archaeobotany of the latter area as soon as possible.

12. It was concluded that ICARDA/IPGRI should cosponsor a follow-up symposium after five or six years to look at the progress in research and to discuss the fresh knowledge on domestication and crop evolution based on modern techniques, such as DNA analysis of carbonized seeds and other materials discovered in the Fertile Crescent.

13. The participants appreciated the efforts of the Organizing Committee in successfully executing the scientific program, which concluded on schedule, and efficiently handling the logistics of the Symposium organization. Special thanks to ICARDA for providing excellent conference facilities for the Symposium.

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