Government of Norway

06/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/03/2021 03:00

New shipment of seeds to Svalbard Global Seed Vault

This week, more than 30,000 additional seed bags from five continents were deposited for safe storage in the seed vault on Svalbard. It is the largest seed deposit since the pandemic was confirmed.

- 2021 is the UN International Year for Fruit and Vegetables. It is therefore appropriate that thousands of new seed samples of more than 50 vegetable species are sent for safekeeping on Svalbard. Preventing the loss of biological diversity in a food source as important as vegetables is crucial for us to be able to adapt future agriculture to a new climate, says Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, seven gene banks from five continents have sent 85 boxes of 30,410 new seed bags to Svalbard this week.

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Tomato seeds and African spinach species from the World Center for Vegetables

One of these gene banks is the International Center for Agricultural Research on Vegetables, The World Vegetable Center, which is headquartered in Taiwan. They regularly send new seeds to Svalbard to ensure a backup of their entire collection of vegetable seeds.

- By 2025, more than 90 percent of our collection of 65,000 seeds, the world's largest collection of vegetable seeds, will be safely stored in Svalbard, says Maarten van Zonneveld, gene bank director at The World Vegetable Center. This time they have sent 11,771 seeds of mainly tomato, but also of chili and various spinach-related species from Africa.

Sorghum from Sudan

The Sudan Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Center (APGRC) has sent 351 seed bags, mainly with seeds of different sorghum varieties that are locally important food and feed crops. - Sorghum makes up the largest part of our seed collection, and is an important plant for Sudan, says El Tahir Ibrahim Mohamed, director of APGRC.

American cabbage, beans, melons and tomatoes

The American Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), a voluntary organization that preserves and distributes a diversity of culturally important food plants, is also one of the gene banks working to secure its seed collection by shipping backup copies to Svalbard. This time they have sent 130 seed bags, with seeds of varieties of locally adapted cabbage, beans, melons and tomatoes.

Many of the seeds come from local garden owners and farmers, who have cultivated these crops for generations. - The plants are adapted to the local climate and could be important for adjusting crops to climate change, says Philip Kauth, director of seed preservation at SSE.

1,111,436 seeds on Svalbard

With this deposit, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is safeguarding the world's largest collection of agricultural plant seeds: 1,111,436 seed samples. October 2021 is scheduled as the next date for the seed vault to open its gate for a new seed deposit.

The Seed Vault is owned by the Norwegian state and operated in collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen).

Institutions that sent seeds for safety storage on Svalbard in June 2021:

  • International Potato Center (Peru)
  • World Vegetable Center (Taiwan)
  • Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Center, APGRC (Sudan)
  • Center for Genetic Resources (Netherlands)
  • Crop Research Institute (Czech Republic)
  • International Center for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas, ICARDA (Morocco / Lebanon)
  • Seed Savers Exchange (USA)