Crop Trust and the Plant Treaty launch lifeline for genebanks to secure the future of crop diversity

The Crop Trust and the Plant Treaty Secretariat have today launched an Emergency Reserve to provide a financial lifeline to genebanks facing urgent threats to their precious contents. The Reserve, which is the first of its kind, will respond to urgent requests from genebanks in low- and middle-income countries to prevent catastrophic loss of their collections.

The less crop diversity there is within the global food system, the more our food is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other challenges. Genebanks, where thousands of crop varieties are stored for the future, contain the diversity required to build a climate-resilient food system.

However, many genebanks around the world are increasingly facing rising from the global pandemic, natural disasters, pest and disease outbreaks, equipment failures and political crises. The Emergency Reserve will provide vital short-term funding to genebanks to respond to imminent threats.

Since 2005, the Crop Trust has stepped in on a number of occasions to help genebanks around the world facing emergency situations. This has included contributing to international efforts to preserve thousands of seeds whose survival was threatened by the civil war in Syria in 2011, as well as providing funds to the Philippines national genebank in 2019 to restore its seed drying facility and to the national genebank in Yemen to replace its generator.

The Plant Treaty, which currently has 149 Contracting Parties, establishes a multilateral mechanism to exchange plant diversity for food security and sustainable agriculture around the world. Since 2007, more than 5.4 million samples of plant material have been transferred from national and international genebanks through the Treaty’s Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing, including to adapt crops to climate change.

This new Reserve will provide a specific pot of funding to allow this work to continue reaching at-risk genebanks, specifically targeting those in low- and middle-income countries.

The Emergency Reserve will be announced during the event It Starts With A Seed: Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change, part of the Global Landscapes Forum Climate Conference occurring alongside COP26. It comes just days before international leaders will meet to discuss the damage being caused by climate change, and how to mitigate and adapt to it, at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Protecting crop diversity and supporting genebanks is key to ensuring our food system can adapt to climate change.

Two donors have come forward already to support the initiative: the Governments of Italy and Norway. A significant part of the initial capitalization of the Emergency Reserve was made possible through financial support provided by the Government of Norway for the Crop Trust’s 10-year project, ‘Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development’ (BOLD). This project aims to strengthen food and nutritional security worldwide by supporting the conservation of crop diversity in genebanks and its use in farmers’ fields.

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