Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 2.5.1.a - Number of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in medium or long term conservation facilities

The conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in medium or long term conservation facilities (ex situ in genebanks) represents the most trusted means of conserving genetic resources worldwide. This indicator will measure progress towards target 2.5.

Target 2.5

By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.

Number of accessions of plant genetic resources secured in medium- or long-term conservation facilities in the world, 1995-2019


The measure of trends in ex situ conserved materials provides an overall assessment of the extent to which we are managing to maintain and/or increase the total genetic diversity available for future use and thus protect it from any permanent loss of genetic diversity which may occur on-farm and in the natural habitat. 

This information is key to support the livelihood of the world's population with sufficient, diverse and nutritious diets long into the future. 

Key results

At the end of 2019, genebank holdings under medium or long-term conditions in 103 countries and 17 regional and international research centres were estimated at 5.43 million accessions, about a one percent increase on the previous year. Estimates were based on updated reports from 59 countries and 15 research centres, representing 75.2 percent of the total holdings, and on previous year reports for the remaining countries and centres.

Virtually all regions of the world increased their holdings between 2015 and 2019. Central and Southern Asia as well as Northern Africa and Western Asia registered the highest relative increases. Over the year, conserved germplasm increased in 40 out of 59 countries and 7 out of 12 international centres.

Net decreases, greater than one percent, occurred in six countries, three in Europe and one each in Western Asia (-1.7 percent), Eastern Africa (-10.7 percent) and South America (-11.4 percent). Losses were ascribed to insufficient human and financial resources in Eastern Africa and Eastern Europe, and to the identification and elimination of duplicates in the remaining regions.

As of December 2019, 290 genebanks around the world conserved almost 96,000 samples from over 1,700 species listed in the IUCN categories of global major concern, including wild relatives of crops particularly important for global and local food security.

In the past few years, the global response in preserving crop diversity in standard compliant ex situ facilities has been insufficient to respond to the alarming pace of threats posed by climate change to crop and crop-associated diversity under on-farm and wild conditions, particularly for crop wild relatives, wild food plants and for neglected and underutilized crop species. These continue to be missing in the gene bank collections or have their intraspecific diversity, i.e. variation within the same species, poorly represented.

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