C. van Ettekoven
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues,
You are looking at a happy man; finally the Association is a fact. After a long period of plotting and thinking we finally exist. In fact it took so long that there were moments that I doubted if it was to happen at all.
Fortunately, during the conception phase, developments did not stop. Since the first meeting in Wageningen major developments have taken place; mobile phones, databases and DNA techniques practically did not exist in 1985 and are now in the centre of our attention. All in all I think it took time, but we now have the chance of a better start than we would have had 10 years ago.
Last week I was in Amsterdam at the annual Hortifair, a tradeshow for world horticulture. On 1000 stands from participants from 52 countries, the 50,000 visitors get a good view on present and future. In exuberant exhibitions the breeding companies display their new cultivars all with beautiful names attached to them, mostly brand names and trade names. At the weekend I also visited the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, close to my home. Here was the annual autumn fair where specialists offered their near extinct plants to interested amateur gardeners. In both cases the names attached to the material are the only way of communicating about the plants.
It was clear to me that both types of taxonomy users could benefit from the work of our Association.
The crucial point of this Association is that its membership is open to all involved in the taxonomy of cultivated plants.
It is not an organization for scientists alone, nor is it a club for the users of taxonomy, professional or amateur. Representatives of both groups are equally welcome. It will be a challenge to work together, each from his or her own interest but all in the spirit of our joint interest in a scientifically sound, good working system of taxonomy.
We have a lot to learn from each other: for people involved in naming their plants, taxonomists are often considered, at best, a stuffy bunch of scientists that live in the past, or worse as DNA cowboys who take their perverse pleasure in constantly changing the names of things. From the other side, the users of taxonomy are not always taken seriously by the scientists; even this week our key-note speaker John McNeill mentioned with satisfaction that at least the nomenclature part of this congress was limited to one afternoon, and during the preparation of the elections, when we discussed the logic of having the Americas as one unit, it was mentioned that in South America taxonomy hardly plays a role. I can assure you that breeders and Plant Breeders’ Rights Authorities in those parts disagree with this statement.
One does not often find this spirit of co-operation between the scientific world and industry.
For those of you who do not know me, I am, being responsible for the Plant Breeders’ Rights and National listing trials in The Netherlands, a so called ‘heavy user’ of taxonomy.
In this capacity I am involved in the work of International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) and the European Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) and represent my country in the legislative process at EU level in Brussels.
I also chair an International Seed Federation (ISF) working group on disease resistance, denomination and codification.
For the world seed industry it is important that if you sell your cultivar as resistant to a certain disease, the naming of that disease is right. If not, liability is a risk.
In this field of naming diseases and their races and strains, even more changes occur than in plant names.
Only here, the scientific world happily publishes changes, not realizing the possible consequences for the industry involved. I can assure you that discussions on these matters with e.g. the American Phytopathology Society are very complicated. With our Association I trust we can offer a platform for this type of discussion on plants.
We have to take up the challenge to bring together a small (shrinking rather than expanding) group of scientists with a 60 billion dollar industry where the name of the product is the main marketing vehicle. It will be an interesting journey we start today, I hope we can be open to each other and accept each others interests.
Consensus taxonomy, as introduced by Piers Trehane seems a good motto to start with.
Knowledge exchange, international relations, quality, greater understanding, and stability and harmonization are the key words from Article 2 of our constitution.
These terms can be associated with examples of every day practice: If in doubt about a taxonomic situation, check the internet. Google is mans best friend.
However, there is no quality guarantee on the information people put on the web. People in this room will probably have no problem in accessing directly the databases that they trust.
For the average John or Jane this is more complicated.
One other mistake John and Jane make is asking the authorities. Depending on whether they hit on a Plant Breeders Right authority (applying UPOV rules) or an ICRA (applying ICNCP) he or she could end up with an answer that is not correct, if he or she later has to deal with the other authority. After a heavy sleep I still wake up in sweat remembering the Franco Dutch Shallot fight where both countries used nomenclature rules that suited them best to clobber the other.
In matters of legislation, as Liz Scott clearly explained Tuesday afternoon, changing names can create havoc at national borders or in Plant Health Service offices.
But also world wide treaties such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Thrips agreement and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) depend on clarity of nomenclature. Finally there is a score of governments, international and national organizations that we will present ourselves to, to make sure indeed that questions that relate to the taxonomy of cultivated plants end up on our doorstep.
Publications and Data Management
In an earlier stage of the history of the Association, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offered the use of Hanburyana, its taxonomic journal. Probably most of the Association’s publications will be through the internet using IACPT’s web site.
A focal point will be the quality of the information.
It is time we created a set of quality requirements for web sites. Sites that fulfill these criteria may proudly carry the seal of approval of the Association.
On Tuesday afternoon Piers Trehane graciously offered his INGPUH™ website in due course to the Association.
This website looked extremely useful and once complete may well serve as basic site for the Portal of the Association.
Immediately, many possibilities come to mind: enabling people to use the site for checking denominations by linking the CPVO site, adding the formal UPOV descriptions of those cultivars that have Plant Breeders’ Rights, linking the accepted web sites mentioned above etc.
Piers, as Crinan said last Tuesday, it is a wonderful gesture, and we thank you for it.
Having said this, we must come up with a new name to form a better acronym; how about Central Uniform Laymans Tool on Nomenclature.
Symposia and Sponsoring
At first the Association is likely to be represented by its members or members of its Council at symposia organized by others, but in due time I can imagine our own activities.
In this respect I take it for granted that the Association will be involved in the 6th symposium on the Taxonomy of Cultivated Plants.
At the first meeting of the Council we will discuss this subject, and I imagine that we will start Committees on the quality of Taxonomic web sites; in time we may well have a Committee devoted to INGPUH™, but also other Committees such as an internal Committee on the necessary by-laws to the constitution, and finances, communication and publicity etc. will undoubtedly be discussed.
Forum for the ICNCP
Every now and then we look in admiration to the British Isles where there is Hortax, a perfect platform for discussion and preparation of comments on the ICNCP. With the Association we can offer a comparable platform to the rest of the world and of course we trust our brothers and sisters from the UK to join in.
We will start discussions with the ICNCP Commission to see if we may mutually gain by incorporating the work of this Committee in the Association.
Near Future
Getting settled, canvassing for members, presentation of IACPT at various logical places.
In the long period towards this moment many have labored to get this show on the road.
With the risk of offending many, I will name a few:
Piers Trehane for his early slave work in drafting the constitution and the members of the Acting Council, who are now formally excused.
Particular thank is due to the members of the working group: Crinan Alexander and Chris Brickell for their work on the concept and the constitution, John David for managing our finances and Valery Malecot for creating our web site.
First meeting of the just elected council: after the reception in the Herbarium building, 20.00; pizzas will be provided.
van Ettekoven, C. (2008). SPEECH OF THE CHAIRMAN OF THE I.A.C.P.T.. Acta Hortic. 799, 203-205
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2008.799.29

Acta Horticulturae