Seed World

International Committee Takes on Plan to Develop the Ukrainian Genebank and Secure Its Invaluable Plants and Seeds for the Future

NordGen hosted a meeting with the Ukrainian genebank and several international experts to address the urgent need to safeguard Ukraine’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, which are currently at risk due to the ongoing conflict. The primary focus of the meeting, according to a press release, was to devise a strategy for resource mobilization and the development of Ukraine’s genebank system, both in the short and long term.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, scientists worldwide reached out to the international plant genetic resources community, expressing concerns about the genebank in Kharkiv and its invaluable collection of seeds and plants. In response, NordGen sought funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to address the Ukrainian genebank’s most pressing needs, including salaries for genebank employees and diesel generators.

Subsequently, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the International Plant Treaty and the international organization Crop Trust, established a seed duplicate storage facility in western Ukraine.

“The genebank is very important for Ukraine’s agriculture as the basis for food security, the current situation is a big challenge for us,” said Viktor Riabchun, Head of the National Center for Plant Genetic Resources of Ukraine in Kharkiv.

Global Impact

Last week, at a meeting attended by international experts, Mykola Roik, Vice President of the National Agricultural Science Academy, presented a long-term strategy aimed at securing the genebank collection for the future. The meeting, organized by NordGen at its headquarters in Alnarp, Sweden, included participants from the International Plant Treaty, FAO Ukraine, NordGen, Crop Trust, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the German government.

“In a crisis like this, you easily think of it as a local or Ukrainian problem. But it is also an international problem as plant genetic resources are global matters. Similar crises can happen elsewhere, so we must see this as a learning opportunity. We’re all in this together,” said Sarada Krishnan, Director of Programs at the Crop Trust and one of the participants in the meeting.

The meeting led to a timeline and plan for the continued work with the genebank’s development.

“A crucial element of the plan developed is a roadmap for Ukraine’s ratification of the International Treaty,” said Alvaro Toledo, Deputy Secretary of the International Plant Treaty. “This will allow Ukraine to participate in important processes and decisions concerning plant genetic resources at regional and international levels and we are fully committed to supporting Ukraine in this process.”

“We are now leaving with a plan, with possibilities for concrete advancements for the Ukrainian genebank and its plant genetic resources that are of importance for the entire world’s food supply,” said Lise Lykke Steffensen, NordGen’s Executive Director. “I am truly happy that we in the Nordic countries have the means to support Ukraine in this devastating situation.”