Dutch support for world’s crop gene banks

The Netherlands has contributed 2.5 million USD to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is responsible for safeguarding unique crop seeds and planting materials in genebanks around the world. It is estimated that approximately 7,000 crops are used as a source of food for people and animals. These crops comprise several million varieties, which have been developed over thousands of years through selective breeding. Preserving this diversity is essential for the worldwide improvement of crop varieties and therefore for our future food production.

Much of the world’s crop material is housed in roughly 1,500 gene banks throughout the globe. However, there are numerous cases of duplication, inefficiency, poor maintenance, and many gene banks are unable to withstand natural disasters. The Global Crop Diversity Trust is therefore committed to the sustainable conservation of this vital aspect of world heritage in a limited number of high quality gene banks.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an independent international organisation that works to create a rational global system for the conservation and use of crop diversity collections. The organisation was founded in 2004 by the international research centre Bioversity International and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The Trust has since carried out many projects to restore, maintain and access collections of crop diversity in gene banks, most of which are located in developing countries. Since 2006 the Trust has been an essential component of the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), to which the Netherlands is a signatory.

The Trust is best known for its involvement in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which was officially opened in 2008 on the Norwegian Island of Spitsbergen.  

The Netherlands is committed to ensuring open access to genetic resources in the agricultural sector for the purposes of research and development. Protecting the open source nature of genetic material is in keeping with that policy, and promotes equal and sustainable access for users in both developed and developing countries. The Dutch national gene bank is managed by the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN), based in Wageningen.