1. Agriculture World

Future Seeds- A New CGIAR Genebank Secures $17 Million Fund

The funds will be used to support the genebank and climate change mitigation science that emphasizes carbon sequestration using plant roots, according to Cristian Samper, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, which hosts and manages Future Seeds.

Shivam Dwivedi
Variety of Seeds (Pic credit: Alliance of Bioversity International-CIAT)
Variety of Seeds (Pic credit: Alliance of Bioversity International-CIAT)

A success story in global cooperation, CGIAR’s network of genebanks is helping scientists- climate-proof food systems and address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. The Bezos Earth Fund has pledged US$17 million to Future Seeds, a new CGIAR genebank in Colombia that was launched recently. The new genebank will contribute to global efforts to ensure the world's food supply in the future.

Future Seeds is home to the world's largest collection of beans, cassava, and forages, and is one of 11 genebanks in the CGIAR network that serve as vital genetic libraries for plant biodiversity.

The funds will be used to support the genebank and climate change mitigation science that emphasizes carbon sequestration using plant roots, according to Cristian Samper, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (the Alliance), which hosts and manages Future Seeds.

"The Future Seeds genebank will add to the global toolkit for researchers and crop breeders looking for traits that will help to further climate-proof and shock-proof global food systems. This new investment from the Bezos Earth Fund will help safeguard the resource for future generations, as well as support the genebank's work to use crops for climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration," said Juan Lucas Restrepo, Alliance Director-General and CGIAR's Global Director of Partnerships and Advocacy.

The network of genebanks, a success story in global cooperation, provides free plant genetic material to any researcher working to breed new varieties of crops, including those with improved productivity and nutritional value, pest and disease resistance, and climate resilience to threats such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and salinity exposure.

The collection is the equivalent of all of humanity's agricultural intellectual property, and the entire global catalogue is open source, patent-free, and supported by a mix of governments, multilateral, and foundations.

"We are in a race against time to conserve crop biodiversity, which is the foundation of crop research, food supply, and, ultimately, humanity itself," said Marco Ferroni, Chair of the CGIAR System Board. It is estimated that the twentieth century alone has resulted in the loss of 75% of agricultural biodiversity. "This newest genebank demonstrates how the CGIAR is playing a critical role in delivering impact by collaborating with national and regional partners and leveraging global science."

Future Seeds is Latin America's most advanced facility, and it is set to become the world's first platinum-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified genebank building. Its Data Discovery and Biotechnology Lab will mine the genebank using big-data technologies and the most recent genetics to document the range of potentially useful traits in the current collection.

Drones and robotic rovers, which help analyze crop characteristics in the field more quickly, and the use of artificial intelligence to enable collectors to identify potential biodiversity hotspots in nature are two other breakthrough technologies across genebanks.

"Recent global events have demonstrated that the world's challenges are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before," Claudia Sadoff, CGIAR Executive Management Team Convener and Managing Director of Research Delivery and Impact, said. "We are collaborating with our partners to develop solutions to national, regional, and cross-cutting challenges, as well as to scale up and deliver impact at the required pace and scale."

CGIAR is undergoing an ambitious global reform that will better position it to develop innovative solutions to the numerous threats to food, nutrition, and water security. The transition to One CGIAR aims to position the organization to double funding to support an ambitious science and innovation strategy, bringing together over 9,000 staff from nearly 90 countries.

In the 50 years since the CGIAR was founded, the global population has more than doubled, but global hunger rates in the developing world have more than halved.

CGIAR has spent approximately US$60 billion in present value terms in its contribution to this outcome, in collaboration with its unparalleled partnerships network of more than 3,000 partners across four continents, which has returned tenfold benefits and improved the livelihoods, resilience, and food security of hundreds of millions of people across the global South.

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