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The world's rice bowl: protected in perpetuity

The world's largest rice germplasm collection received permanent funding for the conservation and sharing of over 132,442 varieties of the staple crop that feeds more than three billion people worldwide. The agreement between IRRI and the Crop Trust guarantees funding for the International Rice Genebank worth USD 1.4 million a year in perpetuity.

“This is a landmark moment for IRRI and for Crop Trust,” said Marie Haga, executive director of Crop Trust. “At a time when many donors have increasingly complex demands on their resources, it is important that the world’s crop collections are safe, secure, and the genebanks are functioning effectively.”

Scientists at IRRI have used the rice samples stored in the bank to develop rice breakthroughs tailored to climate extremes like drought and flooding which are already threatening production in key rice-producing countries, including India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The annual funding will be sourced from the Crop Trust’s endowment fund, which was established in 2004 to provide sustainable, long-term financial support to the world’s most important food and agriculture genebanks.

The first phase of the funding will cover essential operations of the International Rice Genebank from 2019-2023, including conservation, regeneration, and distribution of its cultivated and wild seed collections. As part of the long-term partnership, IRRI will also provide expert advice to five national genebanks to help their crop conservation efforts. The agreement is envisaged to continue after 2023 with a second five-year phase allowing for any revisions in the business plan and operational costs of the International Rice Genebank and will be renewed every five years into the future.