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the vault seed bank

Woefully underfunded, many lack the resources to properly store or protect the seeds they hold. The Crop Trust is now raising money for an endowment fund to ensure that the world’s 1,700 gene-bank facilities are able to continue acting as guarantors of global biodiversity.

On this occasion, samples from India, Pakistan and Mexico were being deposited alongside seeds from Syria, many of whose citizens are living through their own apocalypse. “There are big and small doomsdays going on around the world every day. Genetic material is being lost all over the globe,” says Marie Haga, executive director of the Crop Trust. This past winter offered the gene bank a chance to redress the balance.

It would be difficult to find a place more remote than the icy wilderness of Svalbard. It is the farthest north you can fly on a commercial airline, and apart from the nearby town of Longyearbyen, it is a vast white expanse of frozen emptiness.

Deep in the bowels of an icy mountain on an island above the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole lies a resource of vital importance for the future of human­kind. It’s not coal, oil or precious minerals, but seeds.

As the siege dragged on, a number of them eventually died from starvation. Despite being surrounded by seeds and plant material, they steadfastly refused to save themselves by eating any of it, such was their conviction about the importance of the seeds to aid Russia’s recovery after war and to help protect the future of humankind. One of the scientists, Dmitri Ivanov, is said to have died surrounded by bags of rice.

The entrance leads to a small tunnel-like room filled with the loud whirring noise of electricity and cooling systems required to keep the temperature within the vault consistent. Through one door is a wide concrete tunnel illuminated by strip lighting leading 430 ft. down into the mountain. At the end of this corridor is a chamber, an added layer of security to protect the vaults containing the seeds.

In an age of heightened geopolitical tensions and uncertainty, the Svalbard vault is an unusual and hopeful exercise in international cooperation for the good of humankind. Any organization or country can send seeds to it, and there are no restrictions because of politics or the requirements of diplomacy. Red wooden boxes from North Korea sit alongside black boxes from the U.S. Over on the next aisle, boxes of seeds from Ukraine sit atop seeds from Russia. “The seeds don’t care that there are North Korean seeds and South Korean seeds in the same aisle,” Lainoff says. “They are cold and safe up there, and that’s all that really matters.”

The Norwegian government invites gene banks holding long-term and sustainable seed collections to deposit duplicates of their seed samples in .

The management and operation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is carried out by NordGen through an agreement between the Norwegian .

More information

Despite the global pandemic, genebanks efforts to secure duplicate seed samples at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are still ongoing. .

When the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened to receive seed samples from the world’s gene banks, it received enormous attention .

In June 1st, 2021, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault received its highest number of seed deposits since February 2020 – .

The Seed Bank was established and is fully funded by the Norwegian government, with the responsibility for operations assigned to The Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The Ministry coordinates daily operation with the Nordic Gene Resource Centre and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and receives guidance from a dedicated international council established to advise the Seed Bank.

Way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, is the world's largest secure seed storage. A new video produced by the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food tells the story about the Vault.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault – a new video

03/06/2021: 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.

The vault hold the seeds of many tens of thousands of varieties of essential food crops such as beans, wheat and rice. In total, the vault now holds seeds of more than 4000 plant species. These seed samples are duplicates of seed sample stores in national, regional and international gene banks.

Way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, is the world's largest secure seed storage, opened by the Norwegian Government in February 2008. From all across the globe, crates of seeds are sent here for safe and secure long-term storage in cold and dry rock vaults.