"Since the world is so integrated, I hope that the COVID-19 health crisis will also be a wake-up call so that people understand that we depend on each other and we have global structures to change," stated the vice president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Marie Haga, in a telephone conversation with Efeagro. Haga also highlighted the value of common goods, such as seeds, and invited countries to cooperate more.
In her previous position, she worked to safeguard agricultural diversity, so she does not hesitate to underline the importance of global common goods such as seeds. She also stressed that there was no way to solve issues such as the loss of biodiversity or climate change without having a global approach and called for reform of world-systems to be able to trust them.
An example of this, she said, is the international treaty on plant genetic resources for agriculture and food, in force since 2004, which establishes a system so that producers, breeders, and scientists can access the materials of 64 basic crops.
According to Haga, even though the treaty should serve to facilitate access to plant genetic material and spread the benefits of its use, the poor parts of the world that are sharing those resources still don't have enough confidence in the treaty.
There are some 1,750 seed banks in the world that are part of a system in which the Svalbard deposit in Norway functions as the “tip of the iceberg”. Svalbard, which recently exceeded a million samples stored inside, is the last backup of the material sent from the other seed banks on the planet so that it is not lost.
The IFAD representative asks wealthy nations to continue contributing to these initiatives and argues that “crop diversity is a global common good, we all depend on everyone and no country has it all. We need to exchange that genetic material to access a wide variety of options."
Haga insists that, even though the population uses fewer and fewer species to feed itself, the variety of crops contributes to the resilience of food systems.