Speech to 5th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor for me, as the new Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, to present, on behalf of the Executive Board, the Crop Trust’s report to this Governing Body.

No organization is an end in itself. Any organization is nothing but a means to achieve a goal.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is not an end in itself.  The Crop Trust is a means to implement the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The Crop Trust is a tool in the Treaty’s tool kit.

We are proud to be a tool in your tool kit. Because the Treaty is important. Important to the future of agriculture. Important to food security.

We – all of us in this room – probably don’t all agree on everything, but I am sure we all agree on one thing: food security is a worthy goal in itself.

As many distinguished speakers have already said at this meeting, agriculture is probably facing its most profound challenge ever. In the next 10 years we need to feed 1 billion more people. We need to increase production by at least 15 per cent. This does not come automatically. There is no magic wand. 15 per cent. In only 10 years. This is urgent.

And even more so because this increased production is complicated by a more challenging and unpredictable climate.

The short version is that we need to produce more food on less land, with less water and less energy in a continuously more challenging environment.

Helping agriculture get ready to adapt to climate change is an issue that should be much higher on the global political agenda. In this room we all know that food security cannot be taken for granted.

The key to increased productivity is crop diversity – whether conserved in farmers’ fields or in genebanks. In situ and ex situ conservation are two sides of the same coin. We need both.

The Crop Trust’s mandate is to support the conservation of the diversity of the major food crops ex situ. That’s what we do, that’s what we will continue to do, in support of the development of the Global System first envisaged in the FAO Global Plan of Action of 1996. A Global System that the adoption of the Treaty made it possible to create. Without the Treaty as a framework, we could not, and we cannot, develop the Global System for long-term conservation of crop diversity.

As recognized by the Governing Body (in the Relationship Agreement signed at GB1 in 2006), the Crop Trust is an essential element of the funding strategy of the Treaty. That is what we are. That is what we want to be.

We want the relationship between the Treaty and the Crop Trust not only to be good, but excellent. The Secretary of the Treaty and myself work closely together. We have a joint side event this evening – you are all welcome to the Oman Auditorium at 6 pm. We hear there is seating for 500 people. We hope that will be enough!

The Crop Trust is also collaborating with the Treaty Secretariat on Information Systems. I’ll say more about this later, and you can also hear more about that in the side event.

We are discussing with the Treaty Secretariat the possibility of their hosting a Crop Trust liaison position in Rome, of course funded by the Crop Trust. We are convinced that such an arrangement will help us coordinate now that we are based in Bonn.

I hope you will agree that it is important for the Crop Trust to have such a liaison at the Treaty. We are settling in just fine in Bonn, but we do need to keep in touch with the Rome-based food agencies in general, and the Treaty most especially.

The Crop Trust Executive Board was honored to have the Chairman of the Executive Board as an observer at the Executive Board meeting in May this year. Let me thank you for that, Mr. Chairman.

The Governing Body nominates four members to the Crop Trust Executive Board. These four slots need to be filled by January 2014. Unless these positions are filled, the Crop Trust will not have a functioning Board. All we at the Crop Trust can do is to underline the importance of nominations coming through: It is truly essential for the effective functioning of the Board. We leave it in your capable hands.

In this context, allow me to welcome the draft Procedures for the Selection and Appointment of the Members of the Executive Board of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is before the Governing Body under agenda item 14. The proposed simplified procedure has the support of the Trust Executive Board as well as of our Donors Council. We look forward to your discussion of this important matter.

Let me move on more specifically to our report as presented in the appendix to the note by the Secretary also under agenda item 14.

I would like to focus on a few concrete technical issues.

An important strategic step in building the Global System was rescuing crop diversity in danger of being lost. During the past year, a major initiative to support 86 institutes in 78 countries to rescue and regenerate unique threatened accessions has come to an end. Almost 80,000 accessions of 22 major Annex 1 crops have been regenerated and conserved. You will hear more about this at our joint side event with the Treaty Secretariat.

This initiative responded to a priority in the Global Plan of Action, and so does a new initiative on the conservation of crop wild relatives, supported by the Government of Norway. We started in 2011 with an analysis of gaps in current ex situ collections of the wild relatives of 29 Annex 1 crops. We are now engaging in partnerships with national programmes in order to build capacity to collect and conserve these critical species and to use them in adapting crops to climate change.

The Crop Trust will continue to support the development of the Genesys global portal on accession level data, to which the Treaty Secretariat has contributed. Currently, Genesys holds passport data on over 2 million accessions held in the European network (Eurisco), USDA, and the international collections held by the CGIAR Centres. We are working with interested national programmes to help them share data on their collections. We will hear more on this from the Treaty Secretariat at the side event this evening.

In strengthening genebank documentation around the world the Trust will continue to support the deployment at national level of the GRIN Global genebank data management software, developed by USDA with input from international experts.

The Crop Trust contributes to the running costs of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which now holds almost 800,000 accessions.  We have funded the shipment of approximately 75% of this material. The next opening is in a few days – in October. I take this opportunity of encouraging national genebanks around the world interested in making use of this free safety backup facility to talk to the NorGen representative who is present here.

As you know, a major reason for the establishment of the Crop Trust was to ensure stable long-term funding for the international collections managed by the CGIAR Centres under Article 15 of the Treaty. With the endowment at its current level, the Trust has accordingly been able to disburse approximately US$ 2.3 million in 2012 as long-term grants to support 20 international collections of 17 major Annex 1 crops in 9 CGIAR genebanks and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). In 2012, however, the Trust also entered into a five-year partnership with the CGIAR Consortium and its donors to manage a programme that guarantees the full running costs of all the Article 15 collections held by the CGIAR Centres.

We are far from reaching the endowment target required to safeguard these and other globally important ex situ collections. But we are dedicated to the task. We are working to transition the CGIAR funding entirely to the endowment in the next few years.

You will see from the report that our technical work has continued unabated during this period of transition at the Crop Trust, which has included becoming an independent entity and moving to Bonn. As part of this transition, we are also expanding our fundraising and communications team. What we want to do, Mr. Chairman is – in close cooperation with the Treaty – to be able to make the case for crop diversity and the importance of the Treaty to the widest audience and highest political levels. This is where these issues belong.

Let me conclude on a rather personal note. I am not sure that we get wiser as we get older. But having reached a certain age, I am sure of one thing – it is only through working together we make progress in life. We are all wheels in a bigger machine.

The Crop Trust bases its work on this principle. We know that working in partnership requires patience from all concerned. But at the same time, I hope you will excuse me if I continue to be impatient.

Impatient to reach our goal to secure the conservation of globally important ex situ collections in perpetuity.

Impatient to see the full implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Impatient to see food security a reality for all our brothers and sisters on this planet.

Thank you,

Marie Haga


Filter by
  • News
  • Social

Crop Trust a Finalist for Food Planet Prize

Read More

Kenyan Farmers Can Bank on Tree Seeds

Read More

From COVID-19 to Biodiversity Loss: All Global Challenges Are Connected

Read More

Connecting Genebanks, Economics and Careers

Read More

An International Rescue Mission from Syria to Svalbard

Read More

New Global Assessment of Plant Genetic Resources Gets Underway

Read More

Harnessing the Power of Nature Explored at GLF Biodiversity Conference

Read More

The Power and Potential of Agrobiodiversity

Read More

Seed Conservation Continues Despite The Pandemic

Read More

Safeguarding Biodiversity, Forever.

Read More