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The future of global food security and crop conservation at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

CIAT holds in trust for humanity the globally largest collections of beans, cassava, and tropical forages, crops that underpin the supply of carbohydrates and plant/animal proteins in tropical food systems.

The Future Seeds initiative seeks to build a state-of-the-art genebank that not only ensures their long-term conservation but also encourages their use to enrich diets and to help climate-proof food supply in the tropics.

The President of Colombia, Juan Manual Santos, visits CIAT’s genebank and reiterates the financial support of the government to Future Seeds.

Future Seeds in the media

In Palmira, Colombia, for the world

Energy-efficient Building Design

Sustainable Development Goal 2.5

US$15 million

The world is losing crop diversity at an alarming pace.

Preserving the diversity that remains is an excellent investment. A single gene lurking in one of the tens of thousands of conserved seed samples could make a widely planted variety resistant to a new pest and prevent serious calamity.


are needed, on average, to conserve a crop variety forever.

Money spent improving a relatively small number of seed types used by poor farmers for crops such as cassava and sorghum would have an enduring global benefit. Then you’re affecting literally hundreds of millions of farmers. Once you do the R&D, that seed is there every year.

Bill Gates

Co-Chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CIAT’s new genebank will support three domains of work: Conserve, Discover and Engage.


We will continue to conserve CIAT’s bean, cassava and tropical forage collections, held in trust for humanity, according to the latest quality standards.


We will take advantage of innovations in genomics and big-data technologies to assemble a ‘digital genebank’ to enable a more data-driven and targeted use of crop diversity.


Located in the midst of a global biodiversity hotspot, the new genebank will serve as a meeting platform for scientists promoting biodiversity as a driving force for innovation in agriculture.

Why an initiative like Future Seeds?

To better safeguard important crop collections

CIAT holds in trust 67,700 total varieties of key crops which feed millions of people around the world:

Beans (37,987 varieties) – A crucial source of vitamins and protein as well as income for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

Cassava (6,643 varieties) – Half a billion people in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean depend on this root crop for food.

Forages (23,140 varieties) – A valuable source of livestock feed, helping farmers improve meat and milk production while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

Read more on our collections →

To share more crop varieties with the world

CIAT provides cassava, bean, and forage materials free of charge to any individual or organization anywhere in the world for the purposes of research, breeding, or training for food and agriculture. We share the germplasm stored in our genebank according to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

Since its inception, CIAT’s genebank has distributed more than half a million samples from 141 countries to requesters in more than 160 countries.

Crop diversity means

Improved Nutrition and Health

Dietary diversity is universally recognized as a key component of healthy diets. But over the last 5 decades, human diets around the world have grown ever more similar – by a global average of 36% – and the trend shows no signs of abating. Crop diversity helps ensure not only a stable and sustainable supply of sufficient quantities of food but also plays a major role in ensuring its quality.

Crop diversity means

Livelihood Opportunities

The world’s poor, particularly in rural areas, depend disproportionately on biological resources for as much as 90% of their needs, including food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation. Crop diversity conservation and use creates opportunity for reducing poverty and improving human well-being.

Crop diversity means

Resilience to Climate Change

Crop diversity is essential to allow farmers to adapt their crops and cropping systems to new environmental conditions such as drought, high temperatures, flooding, salinity, and other environmental extremes.

Crop diversity means

Sustainable Food Supplies and Stable Prices

When a crop species or the diversity within a species is lost, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change, putting the global food system at risk.

Crop diversity means

Resistance to Pests and Diseases

Each year an estimated 10-16% of global harvests are lost to plant disease. Using diversity allows farmers to limit the spread of pests and diseases without investing in high chemical inputs.

Contact us

Peter Wenzl

Peter Wenzl

Program Leader, Genetic Resources

Melanie Breiter

Melanie Breiter

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Sylvia Torres

Sylvia Torres

Strategic Partnerships Officer

Your voice is powerful, help us spread the word

It has never been more critical to conserve crop diversity. We need the greatest possible diversity of crops to secure our food supply at a time when we are making unprecedented demands, and putting unprecedented pressure, on our environment.

70% of people most likely to take action for a cause are motivated by friends and family on social media. Share these tweets to get more people talking about crop diversity.