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Publication | 17 May 2021

Crop Diversity, its Conservation and Use for Better Food Systems. The Crop Trust Perspective

Global Food and Nutrition Security

The genetic diversity contained in crops and their wild relatives is the foundation of tomorrow's agriculture, allowing farmers and professional breeders to develop the new crop varieties that agriculture needs to adapt to changing conditions. The loss of this diversity poses a considerable risk to global food security.

The conservation of agrobiodiversity in situ (in nature and in agricultural practice) as well as ex situ (in genebanks) is indispensable. However, many genebanks are unable to guarantee the safe conservation of the material in their care, let alone to create opportunities for its use in plant breeding and for more sustainable agriculture.

Much remains to be done, first and foremost: Strengthening the Global System of ex situ conservation; making this System fit for purpose for hard-to-conserve materials; and innovative funding of this System.

Cryopreservation is the optimal method to maintain genetic resources of such crops safely in the long-term. It is a process whereby organic material is conserved by cooling to very low temperatures, typically −196°C using liquid nitrogen. It is a form of conservation that is technically challenging and requires high up-front investment. However, it is the most effective, long-term complement to the labour-intensive methods of conservation in field genebanks and in vitro.

The Crop Trust was founded in 2004 and is recognized as an essential element of the funding strategy of the Plant Treaty. It provides sustainable, long-term funding for a rational, effective and efficient Global System that can secure crop diversity forever. The Crop Trust is exploring the issuance of a 30-year bond (“Food Security Bond” or “FSB”) to private sector investors, with the objectives to i) provide critical support to national and regional genebanks; ii) support for routine budgets of the 11 CGIAR genebanks; and iii) fund information systems development.