Building a Global Genebank Partnership
Strengthening a rational, efficient and effective global system of ex situ crop diversity conservation.
At a glance: the Global Genebank Partnership
The world’s national, regional and international genebanks safeguard the foundations of our food supply. But, with limited resources, they must learn from each other, work smoothly together, and understand their users to be truly efficient and effective as a system.
The Crop Trust invites interested genebanks to collaborate in a Global Genebank Partnership (GGP). The GGP is intended to provide a platform for partners to strengthen a rational, cost-efficient global system of ex situ conservation of crop diversity that can provide timely, scalable solutions to the pressing linked global challenges of food and nutritional security, climate change and biodiversity loss.
A new partnership for broader international collaboration
This new initiative builds on the success of the CGIAR Genebank Platform by including additional international and national genebanks while continuing to focus on a set of priority activities.
The GGP serves as a framework that underpins all of the Crop Trust’s technical programme.
The Crop Diversity Endowment Fund
At the heart of our work is the endowment fund, a unique financing mechanism designed to provide the long-term stable funding needed to support the work of key genebanks around the world. Only this kind of predictable, long-term support can underpin a global system of conservation.
Support of essential genebank operations
To be able to maintain their plant genetic material in perpetuity, genebanks must be capable of carrying out a range of essential operations to agreed standards, including acquisition, storage and monitoring, safety duplication, regeneration, multiplication, documentation, and distribution of their material. It is the Crop Trust’s main mission to provide long-term support to key ex situ collections that meet agreed performance targets, in accordance with the Fund Disbursement Strategy.
In addition, the Crop Trust provides time-bound support to those collections of global significance that have not yet achieved performance targets to meet the required standards for long-term support. Time-bound support may also be available for duplicating and securing important collections of genetic resources that are not already represented in a collection funded for the long-term or in the process of being upgraded.
Increasing system performance, efficiency and effectiveness
It is imperative that a global system of ex situ conservation is as efficient and effective as possible.
This includes strengthening information systems, harmonizing quality assurance standards and performance reporting, supporting knowledge management and related training, reducing unnecessary duplication, and achieving a better division of labor and collaboration among genebanks.
In addition, fundamental technical improvement of conservation methods (including the wider use of cryopreservation) and closing knowledge gaps are vital to improve the functioning of a global system of ex situ conservation crop diversity.
There’s more to conservation than storage. To fully leverage genebanks to solve global problems, their contents must be readily and easily available for use. Plant breeders, researchers and other users of crop diversity need to be able to quickly identify accessions that possess the different traits they need.
Characterization and evaluation can aid the identification of germplasm with potential for use by breeders and farmers, as well as for direct cultivation by farmers. These and similar efforts require close collaboration between genebanks and plant breeders.
A robust global conservation system will require and benefit from active participation by all relevant parties, including users, not just those directly involved in providing long-term storage of plant genetic resources.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Crop Trust has played a central role in the establishment, development and funding of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the ultimate, back-up conservation facility for the diversity of all crops with orthodox seeds. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is supported through a close partnership with the Norwegian Government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), is a fundamental element of the GGP.
Emergency relief for genebanks
Collections of important plant genetic resources sometimes come under threat of harm because of conflict, natural disasters, equipment failure, pest and pathogen outbreaks, and land ownership issues. Damage results in potentially permanent losses not only for the holding institution but also for the global agricultural research and breeding communities, farmers, and indeed all humankind. The Secretariat of the International Plant Treaty and the Crop Trust have therefore joined forces to set up and mobilize resources for an Emergency Reserve for Genebanks, a fund that will facilitate rapid response to imminent threats to unique collections that fall under the framework of the Plant Treaty.