Germany awards massive grant to protect biodiversity

Germany's grant to the Global Crop Diversity Trust is the largest single donation the Crop Trust has ever received.

Michael Gottschalk/AP/File
A European, top, and a German national flag photographed near the German Reichstags building in Berlin (Oct. 20, 2011).

Germany has awarded more than US$27 million in a grant to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an organization that works with gene banks and farmers to preserve crop biodiversity as pressures on the natural environment and the farming industry rise. This grant is the largest single donation the Crop Trust has ever received.

The announcement of the award brightens the prospects of the upcoming Crop Trust Pledging Conference set for April 2016 in Washington, D.C., where fifty nations will collaborate to “build a broad coalition to save the global common good of crop diversity.”

The Crop Trust was established by Bioversity International in 2004 on behalf of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR ) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to serve as a multilateral system that protects gene banks around the world, ensuring the preservation of crop diversity for future generations.

The work includes “ensuring food security, adapting to climate change, safeguarding biodiversity, protecting nutritional security, reducing poverty, and ensuring sustainable agriculture." These are "just six reasons why it matters to conserve crop diversity,” according to the organization.

At the core of the Trust’s efforts is the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund, which allows the organization to contribute funds annually toward the maintenance and conservation of gene banks, like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located at the North Pole, while offering support to additional collections held by CGIAR and others.

Crop repositories require constant maintenance, and consistent funding is essential to prevent permanent loss from these collections. According to the Crop Trust, approximately 95 percent of the endowment’s value has been provided by 14 national governments. The remainder has come from the private sector. While Germany pledged millions of dollars, the Trust will accept gifts of any size. Incredibly, for an average of US$625 one can conserve an accession in an Article 15 collection for everyone, forever.

The Crop Trust facilitates the availability of seed varieties for all under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which came into force in 2004 with a multifaceted approach, including an “effective, efficient global system at the core of its efforts to conserve and use crop diversity for food security.” They also back up seeds from nearly every country, beneath the arctic permafrost and “against an uncertain future.” That’s what they call “a 10,000 year legacy that we can’t leave to chance.”

This article first appeared at Food Tank.

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