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In 1996, after long negotiations, 150 countries adopted the first Global Plan of Action (GPA) for conserving and using crop diversity. The GPA called for a rational global conservation system, based on the principles of effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. In 2011, the Second Global Plan of Action reiterated that call.

In between, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which came into force in 2004, placed an effective, efficient global system at the core of its efforts to conserve and use crop diversity for food security.

The Crop Trust was established by Bioversity International on behalf of the CGIAR and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to help support this global system in a sustainable way, through a Crop Diversity Endowment Fund. This provides long-term grants to safeguard collections of unique and valuable crop diversity held in genebanks around the world. Priority is given to 25 crops among those listed in Annex 1 of the International Treaty, of particular importance to the food security of least developed countries.