Climate Change

Fresh stock takes ‘doomsday vault’ stock to a million seed samples

Fresh stock of 60,000 seed samples were deposited into the vault

Published: Friday 28 February 2020

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault — referred to as the earth's ‘doomsday vault’ — now contains about 1.05 million seeds. The aim of the vault is to preserve a vast variety of crop seeds in the case of a doomsday event, calamity, climate change or national emergency.

A fresh stock of 60,000 new seed samples from 36 different institutions worldwide was deposited to the reserve vault of seeds in February 2020. On February 25, 30 gene banks deposited seeds, including samples from India, Mali and Peru, reported news agency Reuters.

“We need to preserve this biodiversity to provide healthy diets and for providing farmers with sustainable livelihoods so that they can adapt to new conditions,” said Stefan Schmitz, executive director of the Crop Trust, the organisation that manages the vault.

The vault — in the island of Spitsbergen, midway between Norway and the North Pole — opened in 2008 and preserves seeds for several food varieties.

The US group of the Cherokee Nation and Prince Charles were among those who donated the 60,000 seed samples.

The US group donated nine varieties, including a sacred Cherokee White Eagle Corn, beans and squash, reported tech website The Verge.

Prince Charles – known to be an environmental activist — donated 27 seed varieties from the Royal Botanical Gardens, which came from his private residence in UK’s Highgrove.

“The Seed Vault and seed banks around the world play a vital role in this critically important mission,” he said in a statement.

The vault is artificially cooled at temperatures of below 18 degrees Celsius. The Arctic’s climate keeps it cold in case of a power failure. It serves as a backup for plant breeders to develop new varieties of crops.

A withdrawal was made from the vault in 2015 after Syria’s civil war damaged a seed bank near Aleppo.

A year-long upgrade to the vault — at a cost of $11 million — was made in October, 2019 by Norway.

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