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Tropentag 2023, September 20 - 22, Berlin, Germany

"Competing pathways for equitable food systems transformation: trade-offs and synergies."

International genebanks at risk: Hazard assessment and consequences for risk management

Theresa Herbold

University of Hohenheim, Germany


Genebanks are essential for safeguarding global crop diversity whereby international and supranational genebanks play a crucial role. Despite the growing worldwide awareness of this, it is often overlooked that genebanks are subject to several challenges and risks which might jeopardise their physical integrity. Past incidents and events resulting in the partial loss of important crop collections or even entire genebanks have drastically shown this. A recent example is the ICARDA genebank, originally located in Aleppo, Syria. Being at risk of losing its germplasm collections as a consequence of the Syrian civil war, the genebank had to be relocated in 2016 to Lebanon and Morocco. Parts of the collection could only be restored with safety duplicates preserved at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) and other international genebanks.
Presently a scientific basis for identifying, assessing and managing risks at genebank level is still lacking. The Master’s thesis “Hazard assessment and risk management of national and international genebanks for a sustainable conservation of plant genetic resources” - submitted to the University of Hohenheim in 2022 - aims to address this research gap by providing a risk analysis for three key risk groups: natural hazards, political risks, and financial risks. It was carried out for a sample of 80 important supranational and national genebanks comprising at least 4.78 million accessions or roughly 65% of the total conserved accessions worldwide. A mix of methods was applied, including a literature review, quantitative exposure assessments and expert interviews. The risk assessment tool of Munich Re “Natural Hazards Edition” allowed a location specific comparison of the natural hazard exposure.
The focus of the presentation will be on the 14 international and regional genebanks – most of them managed by the CGIAR centres. Results show that genebanks in the Asia-Pacific region are most exposed to natural hazards, while institutions in African and some Asian countries are rather vulnerable to political risks. Based on this assessment, risk management strategies, including risk mitigation and transfer solutions, will be presented.

Keywords: Ex situ conservation, genebanks, hazard assessment, risk management

Contact Address: Theresa Herbold, University of Hohenheim, Schloss Hohenheim 1, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany, e-mail: theresa.herbold@gmx.de

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