Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Bioversity International and Embrapa sign 5-year agreement to boost sustainable food systems

24 Nov 2014

Brasilia, 24 November 2014 - Bioversity International, the global agricultural biodiversity  research-for-development organization, and Embrapa, the Brazilian Corporation of Agricultural Research, agreed today to work closely together to advance research on sustainable agricultural development in order to feed a world facing mounting challenges. These include rising pressure on natural resources fuelled by rapid economic growth, particularly in middle income economies, a growing and urbanizing global population, and climate change.  

The 5-year Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Director General Ann Tutwiler for Bioversity International and President Mauricio Lopes for Embrapa, will strengthen existing cooperation between the two organizations through specific projects aimed at expanding the existing knowledge base on how to use agricultural biodiversity to develop sustainable food systems.

Joint projects between the two organizations will focus on agricultural research and technology in such fields as sustainable agricultural production, and stewardship of natural resources and biodiversity for food security and nutrition.

It is estimated that the world needs to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed a global population of more than 9 billion. At the same time, however, agriculture must produce more sustainably in order to adapt to, and mitigate the effects of, climate change.  Agricultural biodiversity is a strategic lever for responding to this challenge.

Furthermore, the dissemination of more diverse food plants and more varied and nutritious diets, can help combat another emerging global challenge – the growing double burden of malnutrition which now sets 1.4 billion people overweight alongside 805 million undernourished.

Speaking on behalf of Embrapa, Dr Lopes said: “Our partnership with Bioversity International is of fundamental importance. Genetic resources hold the key to resolving many of today’s food and environmental problems, including climate change. Science-based agriculture that incorporates greater biodiversity can do much to increase welfare in society. Given current and future global demand, we must stimulate even further productivity gains and the development and/or adaptation of resource-saving (land, water, nutrients) technologies that, while boosting production growth, will also help protect the environment and use resources more efficiently. Working together with Bioversity International puts those objectives within reach.”

For Bioversity International, Ms Tutwiler said, “Embrapa was key in bringing about Brazil’s ‘Agricultural Miracle’, which turned the country from a food importer into one of the world’s leading food exporters in just a few decades. Now, in partnership with Bioversity International, Embrapa can consolidate its growing role in global research efforts to make tomorrow’s agriculture not only more productive but more sustainable and nutrition-sensitive by making best use of its biodiversity.”

“This important agreement makes a wonderful birthday present for three splendid 40-year-olds,” Ms Tutwiler remarked. She was referring to the fact that Embrapa celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013 while Bioversity International and Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology each celebrated their own four decades of life this year.

“By working together, Embrapa and Bioversity International come closer to realizing the vision that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet,” Ms Tutwiler added.  

Being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Brazil has become globally important for both food security and environmental sustainability and is notable for the successful, science-based development of tropical agriculture.

The two organizations will cooperate on promoting the stewardship of crop and tree genetic resources including safeguarding biodiversity in gene- and seedbanks, in nature reserves and on farm, as well as the use of this biodiversity for the sustainable intensification of food systems. They will also work jointly on national and international biodiversity policy development.

Other specific areas covered by their agreement include research on nutrition, markets, policy and rural development. Detailed technical cooperation agreements governing separate projects will be drawn up subsequently.
In addition, the agreement promotes researcher exchanges between the two organizations.  

Bioversity International and Embrapa have worked on various projects together over the past 5 years, including: the development of standards for information systems, evaluation of germplasm collections (banana, coconut, cacao), and research on neglected and nutritious indigenous species and their sustainable management.

For more information, please contact Carlos Seré

Read more on the Embrapa website (in Portuguese)


Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organization. We have a vision – that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet.

We deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain global food and nutrition security. We work with partners in low-income countries in different regions where agricultural and tree biodiversity can contribute to improved nutrition, resilience, productivity and climate change adaptation.


Photo: M. Ann Tutwiler, Bioversity International Director General, and Mauricio Lopes, President of Embrapa, signing the 5-year agreement to boost sustainable food systems. Credit: Embrapa