The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen.
Photo: © Mari Tefre/Svalbard Globale frøhvelv

Crop diversity is the key to food security

Representatives from politics, industry, academia and civil society debate the role of plant genetic resources for global food security

The diversity of plant varieties and species is a major key in adapting agriculture to climate change. This is the central message of an event organised by the Global Crop Diversity Trust in the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Berlin office on 11 June 2014.

Public gene banks – some 1 700 worldwide - play an important role in conserving crop diversity. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a facility located on the island of Spitsbergen and financed primarily by Norway, began operations in 2008. It contains around 820,000 seed specimens - a back-up copy, as it were, of the gene banks of the world. 

In the podium debate, representatives from politics, industry academia and civil society addressed the topic of what role plant genetic resources play in global food security and sustainable agriculture. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a major instrument relating to the use of plant genetic resources stocked in public gene banks. 

But the sustainable use of plant genetic resources alone will not suffice to ensure global food security. A transformation in rural areas is necessary for this, said Dr. Stefan Schmitz of the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). And to this end we need to enhance innovation systems and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. The information and discussion event organised by the Global Crop Diversity Trust was supported by GIZ-BEAF Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development on behalf of the BMZ.