Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources (Genebanks)


An unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss is one of the defining global challenges of our times. Reduced biodiversity undermines the resilience of agricultural systems, threatens nutritional security, and puts the foundations of crop improvement at risk. Sustainable Development Goal 2.5 highlights the importance of maintaining genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives, including through soundly-managed genebanks, and ensuring access to that diversity and equitable benefit sharing, in accordance with international law.

Interrelated with biodiversity loss, climate change is putting our increasingly homogeneous farming systems at risk of failure through extreme events, environmental stress, and continuously evolving pests and diseases. Global simplification of diets (and increasing reliance on decreasing diversity of plants) is contributing to the double burden of malnutrition. Meanwhile, international disagreement concerning the governance of genetic resources and genomic information is exacerbating nationalism around genetic resources, reducing international cooperation, with negative impacts on agricultural research and development.


This Initiative aims to:

  • Consolidate crop biodiversity collections, while ensuring that annual germplasm requests are met in compliance with International Plant Treaty and plant health regulations. This will be achieved by strategically aligning processes, standards, and curation, deploying one data management system. CGIAR also aims to have either reached or sustained performance targets for availability, safety duplication, documentation, and quality management.
  • Deploy strategic, cost-efficient methods for conserving (including cryobanking), testing and cleaning at least six priority cultivated crops or wild relatives by 2028, while ensuring that the international policy environment is increasingly supportive of CGIAR’s work through active engagement in relevant treaty and convention developments.
  • Accelerate trait discovery and enrich data resources, thereby increasing the value of the collections. This will be achieved through CGIAR crop curators supporting researchers to meet the needs laid out in product profiles (blueprints for target varieties) by providing data, tools, and genetic resources.
  • Support the appropriate use of the diversity available from CGIAR genebanks in underpinning efforts to adapt to climate change and improve nutrition, food security, and livelihoods. This will be achieved through curators actively engaging with increasing numbers of genebank users.
  • Provide services and build capacity for more effective conservation and use of plant diversity in at least 50 medium- or low-income countries by 2028. This will be achieved through the promotion of a “Greenpass” system, and access and benefit-sharing initiatives, to facilitate and increase international germplasm exchanges.


    Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

    1. Breeding, research, and development actors continuously make advances by utilizing genebank material.
    2. The global system of germplasm conservation and exchange is more efficient and cost effective through information sharing, technologies, and capacity building.




    Agrobiodiversity conserved in genebanks and made available for use underpins efforts to reduce the loss of genetic variation at all levels and to safely restore and diversify agroecosystems, supporting the provision of environmental services as well as crop genetic resources.


    Agrobiodiversity available in genebanks includes nutritional traits and variation and resilient landraces to underpin farming system diversification and crop improvement in support of planetary and human health, and nutrition and food security.


    Agrobiodiversity available in genebanks includes specific crops and genotypes to underpin crop improvement and farming system diversification in support of efforts to increase farmers’ employment and income, and hence reduce poverty and enhance livelihoods.


    The needs of women, men, and youth are addressed through the provision of improved technologies (varieties with adaptive traits) that respond to their preferences (related to drudgery reduction, quality, and income generation) and the repatriation of landraces that have been selected by women over time for particular preferred traits.


    Genebanks hold landraces and crop wild relatives that are a rich source of adaptive traits and genetic material that can be made available through a range of tools and approaches in adaptive breeding, developing new stable varieties of globally important crops to adapt to new challenges linked to climate change.


    For more details, view the full preliminary outline


    Header photo: Marianan Yazbek in active collection at ICARDA’s genebank at Terbol station in Lebannon’s Beqaa Valley. Photo by M. Major/Crop Trust.