Biotech Updates

Anti-government Protests Lead to Destruction of Gene Banks in Egypt

February 25, 2011

Plant genetic materials from desert environments have been irreversibly damaged due to anti-government protests in Egypt. After the police walkout that happened, government facilities in Cairo were targeted by mobs, including the Desert Research Centre (DRC). On the same day, a Bedouin group attacked the Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank (EDGB) in North Sinai, destroying the laboratories and the cooling system that keeps priceless seed collection.

"The EDGB database contains 750 wild desert plant species, including genetic resources not found anywhere else in the world. The collection is not even duplicated in the National Gene Bank in Giza, which has not suffered similar looting," said Ismail Abdel Galil, former DRC chairman and founder of the EDGB.

"I am very sad. Thirteen years of work has gone, and we have to start again from zero," said Hafez Ahmed Hafez, one of the researchers working at the DRC. Hafez also said that PhD students need to repeat most of their experiments since their data stored in the destroyed computers have been lost.