International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Arctic Call to Action for Food Security and Climate Change

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault


Svalbard, Norway, 25 February 2020 – Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufu-Addo of Ghana, SDG Advocates, Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Olaug Vervik Bollestad, seedbank curators and international dignitaries witnessed the largest-ever international deposit of seeds into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault amidst windy snow flurries and temperatures dipping below -22 Celsius. Today’s depositors came from 35 genebanks from around the world, bringing the total number of depositors to 85, and the total number seed samples stored in the Seed Vault to over 1.1 million.

“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,” Prime Minister Solberg said in her remarks to the genebank curators, scientists, plant breeders and international dignitaries gathered at the Seed Vault.

Shortly before the Seed Deposit ceremony at the Vault, Prime Minister Solberg and President Akufu-Addo, Co-chairs of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), issued the Arctic Call to Action for Food Security and Climate Change during the Seed Summit held in the town of Longyearbyen, not far from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Arctic Call to Action urges “governments to step up their efforts to maintain genetic diversity, including through soundly managed seed and plant banks” and “encourages gene banks to make use of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as part of their strategy for securing their important seed collections.”

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, who witnessed the seed depositing ceremony and spoke at the Seed Summit. “The Global Seed Vault offers a safe and secure back-up facility for the seeds of plants that feed the world.”

The International Treaty provides the international legal framework that enabled to the construction of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault 12 years ago. Established in 2008, four years after the International Treaty entered into force, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the brainchild of plant genetic visionaries, who felt it was essential for the world to have a ‘back-up plan’ for our food crops. The seed samples are stored in a secure and controlled environment (-18 degrees Celsius/-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) to ensure their long-term viability and future availability, particularly in case of natural or manmade disasters. The Chair of the Governing Body of the International Treaty is also the Chair of the International Advisory Panel of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Under the legal framework provided by the International Treaty, the seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault remain the sovereign property of the depositors who seal the containers upon deposit, and are the only ones permitted to access them again. These deposits comprise back-ups of material from seed genebanks from around the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is equipped to store up to 4.5 million seeds samples, and is designed to preserve the seeds, keeping them viable for regeneration for decades, even centuries to come.

“The Seed Vault is provided by Norway to the genebanks of the world, to give them a safe place to store a copy of their seeds,” said Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Olaug Bollestad. Together we should all do what is in our capacity to safeguard seed diversity – for food security for us and for future generation.”

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault currently contains world’s largest global backup collection of seeds samples of from food and forage crops, representing over 6 000 plant species. Among the first-time depositors at the Seed Vault today were the 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).

This was the first time the Seed Vault was opened for deposits since the completion of technical upgrades, costing Euro 20 million, aimed at the long-term safety of the seeds stored there. The Norwegian government undertook the massive technical improvements, including a waterproof access tunnel and a bombproof inner vault door, after a leak was discovered in the long tunnel leading to the seed vault deep inside the mountain. The Seed Vault is managed by a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, NordGen and the Crop Trust.

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For the full text of the Arctic Call for Action, please CLICK HERE.

For the full list of SDG Advocates, please CLICK HERE.

For NordGen’s film on the Seed Deposit Ceremony, please CLICK HERE

For the International Treaty and Global Seed Vault film, please CLICK HERE

For more photographs, please CLICK HERE




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