Svalbard Global Seed Vault marks 3rd birthday

25 February, 2011 by (comments)

Congratulations to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which celebrates its third birthday today.

The huge repository, buried in permafrost in the Norwegian archipeligo of Svalbard, serves as a back-up for more than 600,000 plant seed samples from genebanks around the world.

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CIAT’s fourth shipment of seeds recently arrived at the Vault, after a 10,000km journey from the genebank at our headquarters in Colombia. The consignment contained around 3,600 bean and forage samples, collected in over 90 countries, including Afghanistan, Nepal, Yemen, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The shipment included the seeds of an endangered variety of drought-tolerant lima bean from Peru – an example of the many samples that could prove invaluable to scientists developing more resilient food crops.

“The optimism generated by the arrival of this incredible bumper crop of contributions is tempered by the threats that seem to emerge almost daily to seed collections around the world,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which manages the Seed Vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center in Sweden. “As the threats to agriculture escalate, the importance of crop diversity grows.”

As well the threat to crop diversity from the destruction of natural habitats, genebanks themselves can sometimes be at risk: recent unrest in Egypt led to the looting of the Egyptian Desert Genebank in North Sinai. Home to a prized collection of fruit and medicinal plants, looters stole equipment, destroyed the facility’s cooling system, and ruined data that represented more than a decade worth of research.

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