The Global Crop Diversity Summit, held in Berlin, Germany, on 14 November 2023, allowed stakeholders from around the world to reflect on the current state and future role of agri-food systems in the face of interlinked global crises. Discussions centered on the role of genebanks, including seed banks, in preserving and restoring crop diversity, with participants reflecting on pathways towards enhanced international cooperation to support genebanks and their sustainable funding.

Highlights related to, among other things:

  • awareness raising on the value of crop diversity and its conservation in seed banks and genebanks among decision makers, farmers, and the general public to enhance incentive structures;
  • the development of crop varieties with increased resilience to pests, diseases, drought, and salinity, and with improved nutritional characteristics;
  • the creation of safety duplications to back up collections, should individual genebanks be affected by disasters or conflicts, as happened in Syria and Ukraine;
  • repatriation initiatives that support in situ conservation;
  • capacity-building support for genebanks, including with regard to data management practices and technology; and
  • the need to overcome limitations related to project-based funding by providing sustainable funding for the operation of genebanks.

The Summit convened amid growing global attention for food systems, their current weaknesses, and their potential contribution to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and its Stocktaking Moment in July 2023 constituted important milestones in this regard. Many further hope that the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will help raise awareness of the interlinkages between climate and food systems through the adoption of a political declaration at the margins of the conference. Momentum was also brought about by recent developments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In 2022, parties to the CBD adopted the Global Biodiversity Framework, which aims to halt biodiversity loss, and includes a target on the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources, digital sequence information and associated traditional knowledge. In 2023, the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture resumed negotiations on the enhancement of its Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing, after negotiations came to a halt in 2019.

The Summit was organized by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust), a non-profit international organization dedicated to conserving crop diversity and making it available for use globally, forever, for the benefit of everyone. In total, 195 participants attended the Summit in-person and another 1,100 joined online.

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 View of the Global Diversity Crop Summit 2023

View of the Global Diversity Crop Summit 2023 plenary

Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon


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Tags: Convention on Biological Diversity, Faith Action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, future role of agri-food systems, Global Crop Diversity Summit, Global Crop Diversity Trust, International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, seed banks and genebanks