New Appointment to Crop Trust Board
The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international body seeking to guarantee the conservation of crop diversity worldwide forever, has strengthened its high level Board with the appointment of former Norwegian Government Minister Knut Storberget. At his first visit to Bonn, Mr Storberget met with the Crop Trust staff including the Executive Director, Marie Haga, a fellow national of Mr Storberget.
Knut Storberget’s Board appointment reflects Norway’s generous contribution both technically and financially to the Crop Trust since its very inception and to date.
Norway has contributed more than USD 31 million to the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund, which is at the heart of the Crop Trust’s work. The endowment seeks to provide permanent funding of the biodiversity of crops in key genebanks around the world. Governments agree that crop diversity is too important to be left to uncertain and random financing and has decided on the unique mechanism of an endowment fund for this purpose.
Norway’s direct financial support for the Crop Trust’s vital project work has also been considerable. The Norwegian government has provided a grant of USD 50 million over 10 years to fund the project Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives. The project, undertaken in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, is a global effort to systematically find, gather, catalogue, use, and save the wild relatives of wheat, rice, beans, potato, barley, lentils, chickpea, and 22 other essential food crops. These wild relatives contain essential genetic traits that can be used to create varieties with increased hardiness and versatility, necessary to adapt agriculture to a changing environment amidst substantial global population growth.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is a security back up in FAOs global system to ensure crop diversity, is important. The Seed Vault is established and owned by the Norwegian government and it is jointly managed by the Norwegian Government, Nordgen and the Crop Trust. As of today there is close to 850 000 accessions in the Vault in Longyearbyen. The back up is essential if genetic material is lost somewhere on the globe as a consequence of war, flood, fire or lack of technical knowledge. Such an example is the plant genebank in Aleppo which potentially can be damaged as a consequence of the war in Syria.
The genetic diversity within and between crops represent the building blocks farmers, breeders and scientists need to develop new varieties of plants that are able to adapt to new circumstances such as higher temperature and a more unpredictable weather. A tremendous lot of diversity has been lost. For example have more than 90 per cent of fruit and vegetable varieties in the United Stats been lost in the field since the beginning of the 1900. Luckily a lot of genetic material can be found in the world’s crop collections, but it is urgent to collect uncollected material that still exists in the field and to keep safe the material that do exist in the plant genebanks. Many of the world’s 1700 genebanks are in poor condition. The Crop Trust mandate is to develop and finance a global system that makes it possible so safeguard crop diversity for future generations.
Founded ten years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the CGIAR, the Crop Trust is spearheading a global campaign to secure in-perpetuity funding for the world’s genebanks through the endowment fund. Crop diversity is essential for improving crop yields and building resilience against changing agricultural conditions. As such, the Crop Trust is a vital tool in the global battle against hunger. The importance and the close connection between agricultural biodiversity and food security is well recognized in the draft United Nations post 2015 Development Goals.
Speaking from the Crop Trust’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany, Knut Storberget said:
I am honoured and delighted to be joining the Crop Trust. The Crop Trust’s work is of vital importance to the whole world and I am very proud that we, as Norwegians, continue to play an important role in preserving crop diversity for future generations.
Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, said:
We face an unprecedented global challenge in preserving the crop varieties the world will rely upon to feed a growing population. The Crop Trust is leading the world in seeking solutions to this challenge and Norway is a shining example of what nations can and should do to help us achieve those aims. We are very much looking forward to working with Knut Storberget in this important area for food security.