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

6 Nov 2021
  • Climate change, the global pandemic, pest and pathogen outbreaks, and political instability are posing ever-increasing threats to genebanks around the world
  • In response, the Crop Trust and the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Plant Treaty) have launched the world’s first facility to provide financial support to genebanks under imminent threat
  • The Emergency Reserve will provide urgent funding for genebanks to ensure they can respond swiftly to emergency situations

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.


Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, commented: “The launch of the Emergency Reserve is a major step forward in our fight for a climate-resilient future for food. Genebanks around the world are facing crises on multiple fronts, from extreme weather events, to the global pandemic and political instability. It is clear that further action is needed to prevent these forces from causing the devastating impact of permanently losing invaluable crop diversity. The Emergency Reserve provides a solution to this, and will be a lifeline for genebanks.”

Kent Nnadozie, Plant Treaty Secretary commented: “We live in an interconnected world. Losing a unique collection of plant genetic diversity in one country today means losing future opportunities of breeding a plant variety that will be adapted to changing environments and needs. Genebanks, which hold the key to our agricultural future, contain a treasure trove of traits we can harness to build more resilient crops, are themselves under threat. The launch of the Emergency Reserve is an example of how the agricultural community is establishing concrete mechanisms to help secure our food systems and adapt to the rising challenges of climate change and other environmental threats, such as the global pandemic.”

Notes to Editor

About the Crop Trust
The Global Crop Diversity Trust, known as the Crop Trust, is an international organization that supports the conservation of plant genetic resources in genebanks, and their use for food and nutritional security. It supports genebanks, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and proactive pre-breeding efforts around the world. The Crop Trust is recognized as an essential component of the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. For more information, see

About the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is an international agreement between member countries to conserve, use and manage plant genetic resources for food and agriculture around the world for the benefit of people everywhere. The Treaty ensures that farmers and plant breeders access the raw genetic material needed to develop new crop varieties, including those with higher yields and those that are resilient to climate change. It provides a global solution to the challenges of crop diversity loss and climate change adaptation through mechanisms such as the Multilateral System and Benefit-sharing Fund.


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