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Marking the First 15 Years of Forever

Aerial group shot

30 October 2019

The Crop Trust was founded in October 2004, with a goal to help build a global system of crop diversity conservation and use, and to fund it through an Endowment Fund that would make it a lasting reality.

This month, we are marking our fifteenth anniversary – and taking some time to reflect on just how far we have come in fulfilling that goal.

On 30 October we will celebrate at an anniversary dinner at Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn, with Crop Trust staff, members of our Executive Board, and some of our local partners in the Bonn area.

We can’t bring too many people to the party, unfortunately, but we do want to share with the whole world our excitement, our gratitude and our pride in all we have done together. So we are also launching an anniversary publication, Completing a Global Task: Conserving Crop Diversity, Forever. This is a brief tour through the activities, partnerships and achievements that have kept us busy for a decade and a half.

Our story brings together many threads, from the conference rooms a short walk from the Tiber where it all began to our eventual home on the banks of the Rhine; from the Arctic ice to lush tropical valleys; from seeds sprouting in Moroccan fields to their data doubles flourishing online in Genesys.

The Crop Trust Endowment Fund, which has grown from the germ of an idea to a USD 300 million investment in the future of crop conservation, is a big part of this story. But there’s so much more. In just our first few years, we developed hundreds of pages of crop strategies that continue to guide worldwide conservation efforts. We helped save nearly 75,000 accessions in hundreds of national collections from potentially disappearing forever. We supported the creation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as an ultimate safety backup and an icon of long-term thinking for the future of humanity.

We have gone on to bring the world’s key international genebanks together in the CGIAR Genebank Platform, forming a secure and accessible backbone for the global system of crop conservation and use. We have spearheaded a worldwide effort to collect thousands of types of crop wild relatives that can be used in future breeding efforts for climate adaptation. We have brought the use of genebank data into a new era, and we are speaking up for diversity at the highest level of global action – the Sustainable Development Goals.

All of these efforts will continue through many anniversaries yet to come, but 15 years is a good place to pause for a moment to look back at how far we’ve come, and where we still have to go.

In 2004, the genetic foundation of everything we eat rested on treacherous ground. Crop diversity could be found in genebanks all over the world, but it was nowhere near as secure as its immense importance demanded. Today,  we are happy to say that the proceeds from a USD 300 million Endowment Fund meet more and more of the needs of these genebanks, with a commitment to do so forever.

This is something extraordinary to achieve in just 15 years, and it points the way to a global system that lies within reach during the next 15 years. We are well on our way to meeting the Endowment Fund target that will keep the international genebanks operating forever. We are embarking on a new era of support to national collections. We are advancing how genebanks work, how they share material, how they add missing unique diversity, how they manage data, and how they protect their collections from the unexpected.

So we invite you to look back with us – and stay tuned for much, much more ahead.

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