Future Seeds is a state-of-the-art genebank that will serve as a hub to:
- Conserve and distribute genetic resources of a diverse set of crops efficiently and effectively, following the highest international standards.
- Innovate to improve conservation methods and discover the hidden value of genetic resources to enable a more targeted use of crop diversity to accelerate genetic gains.
- Engage the public to raise societal awareness about the vital role of crop diversity and contribute to the policy dialogue about the equitable sharing of benefits of crop diversity.
Future Seeds will not only hold in trust for humanity the largest collections of beans, cassava and tropical forages in the world, with over 67,000 distinct samples, but will also expand its collections to other essential crops and their wild relatives, thus supporting global food and nutrition security.
The future of crop diversity and genebanks
Over the last century, approximately 75% of crop diversity has been lost. The world’s population now relies primarily on a few dozen crops, with humans getting ~95% of their energy from five of these alone. Crop failures due to climate change, socio-political conflicts, natural disasters, or pests and diseases, already spell disaster for millions of farmers and consumers around the world each year. This is where genebanks such as Future Seeds play a crucial role. They can provide the necessary planting materials to reconstruct agricultural losses by furnishing countries with varieties that are adapted to local conditions. They can also serve as genetic libraries from which breeders can develop new varieties of nutritious crops that are tailored to specific growing conditions across the world, building on gains achieved in agricultural productivity over the last half-century while avoiding environmental and social costs.
Vital crop collections
Future Seeds will replace the Alliance’s original genebank in Palmira, Colombia, which has exceeded its capacity, and continue to house its existing collections of vital crops. These have been gathered over the past four decades across the world, and are a veritable treasure trove of bean, cassava and tropical forage species, varieties and landraces. Beans are the most important food legume for direct consumption in the world, and a primary source of protein for almost half a billion people every day. Cassava is the third most important food crop in the tropics (after rice and maize) and is also consumed by half a billion people every day. It is also a key source of income for smallholder farmers and sustains key manufacturing industries related to food, starch, biofuels and pharmaceuticals. Tropical forages are essential for developing sustainable livestock production systems globally, primarily those that can draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide and reduce methane emissions, thus contributing to the mitigation of climate change.
A global facility for the future
Future Seeds will preserve the Alliance’s growing collections of crops, while distributing samples to farmers and researchers worldwide free of charge. By adding 30% more storage space, Future Seeds will secure more wild varieties and landraces, which may hold the secrets to higher temperatures, drought and floods. A new module, the Data Discovery and Biotechnology Lab, will facilitate discoveries, relying on genomics and big-data technologies, to continue improving crops for higher yields, better nutrition and climate resilience. Scientists around the world will have free and open access to the digital passports for these crops, expediting collaboration and discoveries. Through Future Seeds, the Alliance will also collaborate with partner genebanks around the world on optimizing protocols for cryopreservation and ensuring plant health, and by hosting collections, including safety duplicates, of other key crops. Additionally, a new generation of genetic resource scientists will be trained at Future Seeds.
Future Seeds will be the first ever platinum-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified genebank building in the world. It has an iconic and energy-efficient building design including an external “skin” canopy to repel solar radiation, panels to harness solar energy, thermal control, natural ventilation and rainwater harvesting. The building itself will convey a strong public message about the vital importance of environmental sustainability. An external review of the Alliance’s protocols for managing crop collections found the genebank to be operating at the highest technical and scientific standards relative to other genebanks around the world.
Status of construction
Last update: May 2021.
To date, the Alliance has secured 65% of the total cost of the facility through funds from both its own resources and generous contributions from the Government of Colombia, the UK Government, the CGIAR Genebank Platform, philanthropists John and Ginger Sall, and the Santo Domingo Foundation in Colombia.
Please join us in completing the construction of Future Seeds and safeguarding the world’s crop diversity to ensure a climate-resilient and food-secure future for generations to come.