Politicians, partners, donors, and staff gathered for the inauguration of the Alliance’s new genebank, Future Seeds, in Cali, Colombia. Read on for a recap of the day’s events.
March 15, 2022 - Cali, Colombia: The Alliance opened the doors to guests from around the world for the launch of Future Seeds, our new state-of-the-art genebank. The conservation facility hosts the global collections of beans, cassava and tropical forages, counting samples of over 67,000 varieties and crop wild relatives. Besides sharing plant material, Future Seeds will act as an innovative knowledge-sharing hub for younger generations of students and scientists.
Inauguration with Colombia’s president
As the morning warmed up, guests arrived at the Alliance’s Palmira campus, gathering in the shadow of Future Seeds. For the staff and scientists in the audience, many who had been part of the construction process since 2018, this marked the culmination of years of hard work, especially given that much of the construction and transfer of seeds occurred during the pandemic.
After much anticipation, Future Seeds – the distinctive glass and yellow structure, designed for maximum environmental sustainability – was officially unveiled in a ceremony led by the president of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, with the presence of Alliance and CGIAR leaders as well as Rodolfo Zea Navarro, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia.
In his welcome speech, President Duque noted that while Colombia is a proud biodiversity hotspot and host for the facility, its scope is global, calling Future Seeds: "A seed bank focused on satisfying the needs for feeding the whole planet." Alliance Director General Juan Lucas Restrepo and CGIAR Managing Director Claudia Sadoff reiterated this sentiment, noting CGIAR’s commitment to improving global food security by researching and distributing diverse planting material around the world.
Honoring decades of scientific achievement
Scientist Joe Tohme, Director of the Alliance’s research area on Crops for Nutrition and Health, has been one of the strongest forces behind Future Seeds. Besides overseeing the genebank’s development, Tohme has been a leader in crop conservation and plant genetic research for three decades.
During the launch, Tohme was honored with Colombia’s Orden Nacional al Mérito: the nation’s highest award of merit. While presenting the award, President Duque recognized Tohme’s contributions to food security, conveying the title of "gran caballero”, or “great knight”. Alliance colleagues were quick to celebrate Tohme’s achievement, noting his dedication to crop improvement, as well as his mentorship of younger scientists.
Bezos Earth Fund pledges support
Those in attendance were also the first to hear an exciting announcement: The Bezos Earth Fund pledged 17 million USD to Future Seeds. This generous support is meant to enable further research on climate change mitigation science; for example, carbon sequestration using plants’ roots systems. It also helps ensure that other researchers and farmers are able to easily access Future Seeds’ resources. As with the collections at other CGIAR genebanks, the entire digital catalogue is open source, patent-free and funded by a mix of governments, multilaterals and foundations.
Full speed ahead
Followingthe lunch A Taste of Future Seeds prepared by cooks from the Chefs’ Manifesto and the Alliance, which sampled diverse ingredients including biofortified varieties of beans, cassava and rice, and sustainable GANSO beef researched by the Alliance, guests were taken on a tour of the facilities. Scientists were present to speak about their work, and explain the many functions of the genebank, touching on the specific crops, digitalization, and cryopreservation technologies in use.
Chefs from the Chefs' Manifesto and the Alliance prepared dishes using crops stored at Future Seeds.
As the day came to a close, the work at Future Seeds had just begun. Coinciding with increasing global awareness (see: IPCC, UN Biodiversity) that food systems diversification is an essential element in climate change adaptation, Future Seeds is a momentous step forward for both the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The Alliance thanks our colleagues, staff, partners, and donors for their continued support throughout the Future Seeds journey.
About Future Seeds
The Alliance’s new genebank stores global collections of beans, cassava, and tropical forages for conservation and distribution, and serves as an innovation hub to accelerate crop genetic gains. Likewise, it will provide a space for collaborative encounters and engagement with the public to raise awareness of the vital role of crop diversity.