Crop genetic diversity conversation, exchange, and use: Measuring the global consequences of inaction


August 1, 2019

August 26-27, 2019

International Food Policy Research Institute
1201 Eye St. NW, Washington, DC 20005 USA

Co-organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM)

Post-event blog: How do we estimate the consequences of global inaction on genetic diversity conservation, exchange, and use?

This convening is part of the initial design phase of an ambitious project that will explore the global costs and consequences of inaction on crop genetic diversity conservation, exchange, and use. The project will draw on the richness of expert knowledge, empirical evidence on the valuation of genetic resources, and modelling suites to provide insight into future outcomes for global agrifood systems—outcomes that include agricultural production, consumption, prices, trade, land and water use, food security, and nutrient availability—under a range of plausible scenarios linked to climate change.

This meeting represents the first step in the project’s design phase—the convening of a scientific working group to specify a conceptual and methodological approach to describing and quantifying the global consequences of inaction on the issue. The group will draw on a panel of experts from the Global Crop Diversity Trust, IFPRI, Bioversity International, and other CGIAR centers and programs, alongside experts from national agricultural research systems, universities, and advanced research institutes. The effort will link with the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), a CGIAR-wide initiative on global foresighting for food and nutritional security, and contributions to the Global Commission on Adaptation.

Peruvian farmer showing quinoa varieties. Photo: Bioversity International / S. Padulosi


There is a strong global consensus supporting accelerated efforts to conserve, exchange, and use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, anchored in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food at Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Yet implementation efforts remain low on the political agenda and poorly resourced relative to their present and future value to society. This begs an important question: What would be the cost to our global agrifood system in the future if a multilateral mechanism for the conservation and access to crop genetic diversity did not exist?

The answer to this question lies in recognition of the Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its significance to international efforts aimed at improving food and nutritional security, adapting to climate change, and ensuring the environmental sustainability of food systems across the planet. The Plan of Action highlights the priorities to ensure the conservation and use of genetic resource through a global network of genebanks and germplasm collections, the improvement of crop improvement programs and seed systems, an expansion of information systems and data-sharing infrastructure, and the strengthening of national capacity to make use of genetic resources for development.

Meanwhile, the ITPGRFA and its supporting Plan of Action are continuously challenged by new policies and regulations related to trade, biodiversity conservation, and development assistance which are likely to influence the conservation, exchange, and use of potentially valuable genetic materials held in the national and international collections that provide the global network for conserving and accessing these resources.

The implementation of the Plan of Action is therefore uneven: many of its priorities simply do not receive the attention they deserve, and critical investments will be needed. The Funding Strategy of the International Treaty uses the Global Plan of Action to set a funding target to ensure full implementation of its priorities. While the funding target will be ambitious, the present study will demonstrate the cost of inaction of not having a multilateral mechanism of cooperation for crop genetic resources far outweighs the cost of the full implementation of the Plan.

Given how acutely the future of our global food system depends on crop diversity, the failure to fund and implement the Plan of Action poses real risks for our common future. This risk underscores the need to strengthen resolve in support of Sustainable Development Goal 2.5, which commits the international community to maintain genetic diversity and promoting fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

This is a 'by invitation only' event. For more information, please contact David Spielman and Keith Wiebe.


The new book argues that African smallholder farmers, who might seem unproductive, are largely producing following rational economic decisions, and that this situation is a consequence of the economic and institutional environment in which they operate.


Join our webinar on December 10, 2021 in support of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.


Why is tenure security and landscape governance research important for addressing climate change, poverty alleviation, gender disparities, nutrition and health, environmental management and sustainability? Join our webinar on December 7 to hear from the experts!