It just so happens that today – World Food Day 2016 – coincides with the 10th anniversary of CIAT signing The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

This landmark United Nations agreement now signed by 140 countries aims to improve food security and sustainable farming by bringing together hundreds of genebanks and scientific organizations to facilitate the exchange of important seeds and plants.

These samples are used in breeding programs worldwide to try and tackle some of the most pressing agricultural challenges. They cover the development of crops that can tolerate the stresses caused by climate change, and that contain higher levels of vital nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A.

Since signing the Treaty on 16th October 2006, CIAT has shared almost 85% of its 67,770-strong collection of beans, cassava and tropical forages:

  • Beans – 26,981 samples shared with 43 countries (representing 96.5% of CIAT’s bean collection)
  • Tropical Forages – 6,402 samples shared with 39 countries (59.7%)
  • Cassava – 6,709 samples shared with 45 countries (97.7%)

In addition, over 23,000 samples have been shared with researchers in CIAT’s host country, Colombia. Through the Treaty, CIAT has also received new samples of wild beans for use in its bean breeding program.

Sections of the Plant Treaty are currently under review, a process that could lead to it covering a wider range of crops.

“The Plant Treaty currently helps us share and improve a wide range of key crops,” said Peter Wenzl, of CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program. “But it doesn’t include all of the crops we depend on, nor those we might come to rely on in the future. Hopefully the scope of the Treaty will expand to cover all of the plants necessary for ensuring diverse, nutrient-rich diets and for protecting the global food supply against climate change.”

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Call to Action

Future Seeds is an ambitious initiative to upgrade the CIAT genebank. This will help the organization better store and distribute its collection of beans, cassava, and tropical forages. The new, state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable facility will also generate and make available vast amounts of information that can help unlock the secret power of seeds. In addition, it will serve as a hotbed for.  innovative training and outreach. Learn more about Future Seeds.

CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program has been supported by the Belgian Agency for Development in Cooperation (Administration Générale de la Coopération au Développement – AGCD), Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ), The European Union, the Crop Trust (formerly the Global Crop Diversity Trust), the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Swissaid, The United States Agency for International Development, The United States Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank.

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