Seed News


Monsanto Funds UN's World Flora Plant Database

Date Posted: June 8, 2012

St. Louis (June 5, 2012) -- The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO has received a three-year, $3 million gift from Monsanto Company to support its work on the development of a World Flora Online. The World Flora is an international collaborative effort involving the leading botanical institutions worldwide to develop the first-ever comprehensive, authoritative and accessible online resource for the world’s approximately 400,000 known plant species.

The World Flora Online will improve access, analysis and management of critical botanical information for policy makers and planners, biodiversity conservation practitioners, botanists, ecologists, geneticists, other scientists and users of plant data worldwide. The support of Monsanto Company will fund the Missouri Botanical Garden’s contributions to this ambitious endeavor from 2012 to 2015.

“The proposed World Flora Online will be an invaluable, accessible treatment of the world’s plant diversity that will act as a baseline to support global efforts to identify, safeguard, sustainably use and manage plants for humankind,” said Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “The importance of Monsanto Company’s funding for this international endeavor cannot be overstated. With the creation of the online World Flora, we are one step closer in having the tools in place to halt the loss of plant species worldwide by the year 2020, an essential goal outlined by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.”

The project will include the building of an open-access web-based system for data collection and a subsequent web portal for the display, query and export of this data for scientific and governmental research and conservation. Upon completion of a first phase of the project, it is anticipated that data on some 100,000 plant species, including names, descriptions, geographical distributions and conservation status, will be available with open access to users around the globe.

“As an agriculture company focused on developing sustainable crops through breeding, biotechnology and agronomics, we recognize the importance of investing in analytical tools that can be used to promote global plant diversity like the World Flora Online database,” said Jan Holloway, senior vice president, chief of staff and community relations for Monsanto. “Monsanto is a proud supporter of the Missouri Botanical Garden and its mission to sustain the world’s plant resources.”

In 2002, the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). This was subsequently updated in 2010 with the aim of halting the loss of plant species worldwide by 2020. The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity is the most widely supported international environmental agreement and involves most of the world’s governments. The updated GSPC includes 16 targets to be achieved by the year 2020; Target One of the GSPC states the need for “An online flora of all known plants.”

Responding to this 2020 target, in early 2012 four of the world’s leading plant science institutions agreed to collaborate to support the development of the World Flora Online. The Missouri Botanical Garden, The New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing their intent to work together to spearhead the development of a World Flora Online. They will be joined in this work by a large number of other botanical institutions worldwide collaborating to deliver this vital new initiative to support conservation and sustainable management of the world’s plant resources.

“The four collaborating institutions bring decades of botanical information and expertise to this project, but will clearly need additional data and insight from botanists around the world,” said Dr. Bob Magill, senior vice president of science and conservation, Missouri Botanical Garden. “Monsanto’s gift will permit us to focus our botanical and informatics staff on the delivery of this project, which would not have been possible otherwise.”

_____________________________________________________________________ The Missouri Botanical Garden is at the forefront of the urgent struggle to discover, understand and conserve the world’s botanical diversity as species and habitats rapidly diminish. With scientists working in 35 countries on six continents around the globe, the Missouri Botanical Garden has one of the three largest plant science programs in the world and a mission “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 153 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.

Monsanto Company and Monsanto Fund have been among the most generous benefactors of the Missouri Botanical Garden over the past 40-plus years, contributing about $10 million for numerous key capital, science and education projects during that period. Monsanto made the lead gift during the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Partnership Campaign to name the Monsanto Center, the Garden’s state-of-the-art plant science facility, which opened in 1998. Monsanto’s generous support during the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Stewards of the Earth campaign is reflected in the Canopy Climb in the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. Monsanto has participated in the development of the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening and the Ridgway Visitor Center, the construction and renovation of the Lehmann Building and the establishment of the Butterfly Garden at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House (a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden). Monsanto has also supported education programs including the “Power of Plants” and school programs. “We are thankful to Monsanto Company for their support of the Garden’s important mission through the years, and for their continued recognition of the vital plant science and conservation work that we undertake,” said Wyse Jackson.

more SEED NEWS...