Europe

In Case Of Emergency, Break Seal And Plant Seeds

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Today, 36 genebanks from all continents deposited seeds at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, at a deposit event hosted by Norwegian Prime Minister and co-chair of the UN group of SDG Advocates, Erna Solberg. President of Ghana and co-chair Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and other members of the Group of Advocate also participated at the event.

Reindeer graze freely around the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Reindeer graze freely around the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the world’s largest back-up collection of seed samples from the world’s genebanks. The seeds that were deposited today come from 36 international and regional genebanks, as well as national institutions and civil society organizations, bringing the total number of seed samples stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to more than one million, and the total number of depositors to 85.

Among them were first-time depositors Cherokee Nation (USA), the University of Haifa (Israel), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Morocco), the Julius Kühn Institute (Germany), the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, the Baekdudaegan National Arboretum (South Korea), Suceava Genebank ‘Mihai Cristea’ (Romania), and Kew Gardens (UK). 

A new shipment of seeds has arrived at the Seed Vault.
A new shipment of seeds has arrived at the Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangales

– This deposit event is especially timely, given that 2020 is the deadline for meeting target 2.5 of SDG 2 on zero hunger, which calls on the international community to safeguard the genetic diversity of crops and livestock, said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

A new shipment of seeds from ICARDA has arrived and is taken into the Seed Vault for long term conservation.
A new shipment of seeds from ICARDA has arrived and is taken into the Seed Vault for long term conservation. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangales

The seeds of several hundred different plant species were deposited today and included common staple crops and a large variety of vegetables, herbs and their less-used wild relatives. 

NordGen staff labelling seed boxes from ICARDA (International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas) before the boxes are placed at their final position in the Seed Vault.
NordGen staff labelling seed boxes from ICARDA (International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas) before the boxes are placed at their final position in the Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangales

Today’s deposit was the largest since the Seed Vault’s opening in 2008, in terms of the number of institutions to send seeds at one time. It was also the first major deposit since the completion of a technical upgrade in 2019. The improvements that have been made to the Seed Vault include the construction of a new waterproof access tunnel, together with other security measures in preparation for what is expected to be a warmer, wetter future. 

The door to the tunnel in the vault.
The door to the tunnel in the vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale

– Norway greatly values the trust shown to us by all the genebanks that have chosen to use the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as part of their strategy for securing important seed collections. We are strongly committed to managing the Seed Vault in accordance with the highest agreed international standards, said Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad. 

The tunnel in the vault.
The tunnel in the vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale

– Every single seed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds potential solutions for sustainable agriculture. Solutions that are vital for feeding a growing population and achieving a green transition. As the operational manager of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, we are proud to be part of this initiative and to be contributing to reaching SDG target 2.5, said Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director at NordGen, the Nordic countries’ genebank and knowledge centre for genetic resources. 

NordGen staff, Fredrik Kollberg (left) and Åsmund Asdal bring new seed boxes in to final position in the Vault shelves
NordGen staff, Fredrik Kollberg (left) and Åsmund Asdal bring new seed boxes in to final position in the Vault shelves Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale

– As the pace of climate change and biodiversity loss increases, there is new urgency surrounding efforts to save food crops at risk of extinction, said Stefan Schmitz, Crop Trust Executive Director. – The large scope of today’s seed deposit reflects worldwide concern about the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on food production, but more importantly, it demonstrates a growing global commitment – from the institutions and countries that have made deposits today and indeed the world – to the conservation and use of the crop diversity that is crucial for farmers in their efforts to adapt to changing growing conditions, Mr Schmitz said.

Seed boxes from many gene banks and many countries stored side by side on the shelves in the Seed Vault.
Seed boxes from many gene banks and many countries stored side by side on the shelves in the Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale