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Seed Summit highlights need for genetic diversity

A recent summit entitled Genetic diversity for more resilient food systems looked at the urgent need of safeguarding crop diversity due to the impact of climate changes on food production. Representatives of genebanks from around the world who came to make seed deposits in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault participated in the 2020 Svalbard Seed Summit on 25 February 2020. The summary of the presentations is now available.

The Seed Summit was held in Longyearbyen, Norway and organised by the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Nordic Genetic Resource Center and Crop Trust on the occasion of the seed deposit at the Seed Vault on the same day.

“Today, no country is self-sufficient when it comes to the genetic resources needed to sustain food security,” said Simran Sethi, journalist and author, who opened the Seed Summit with a keynote address entitled From genetic diversity on farms to the food on your plate. “We need each other; we feed each other. We all have power in shaping the food system and must take action — seed by seed and meal by meal.”

Other speakers in the Seed Summit echoed Simran’s thoughts and stressed why we need genetic diversity and what we have learned about the management of genebanks. Grethe Evjen of the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food chaired the two first sessions.

The first session included speakers from international and national genebanks as well as the Fridtjof Nansen Institute who addressed why the Svalbard Global Seed Vault matters to genebanks, how linkages between genebanks and on-farm conservation could be advanced, how Farmers’ Rights contribute to food security and the role that international genebanks play in the global conservation system.

Speakers in the second session addressed the management of genebanks and opened the floor up so representatives of genebanks present could also share experiences.

Stefan Schmitz, the Executive Director of the Crop Trust, chaired the last session which included messages from the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and the President of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a member SDG Advocates, read out the Arctic Call to Action on Food Security and Climate Change which was then signed by Prime Minister Solberg and President Akufo-Addo.

“The impressive work that national and regional seedbanks, and indeed the Seed Vault, are doing in preserving seed varieties is so important not just for crop systems conservation but for the long-term security of our world,” said President Akufo-Addo in his closing remarks. “And for this reason, the world needs to scale up its support for the work that we do.”

After the Seed Summit, 35 institutions deposited 65,119 accessions in 188 boxes into the Seed Vault. This brings the total to 1,050,000 accessions in the Seed Vault, which is the largest safety backup of the world’s crop diversity. Among the first-time depositors were the Cherokee Nation (USA), University of Haifa (Israel), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Morocco), Julius Kühn Institute (Germany), Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, Baekdudaegan National Arboretum (South Korea), Suceava Genebank ‘Mihai Cristea’ (Romania) and Royal Gardens at Highgrove via Kew Gardens (UK).

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Seed Vault is the largest safety backup of the world’s crop diversity. Norway established and owns the Seed Vault. It is managed and operated in a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) and the international organization Crop Trust.  www.seedvault.no

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food
The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the legal and administrative body of the Seed Vault and has the overall responsibility for its management, security and funding. www.regjeringen.no

Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen)
NordGen manages and operates the seed deposits in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Crop Trust. NordGen is the focal point for depositors, coordinates seed deposits and operates a publicly accessible online database of the deposited seeds. www.nordgen.org

Crop Trust
The Crop Trust works to establish an efficient global system of crop conservation, with the Seed Vault providing the last level of safety duplication of the world’s genebanks. The Crop Trust provides financial support to select genebanks in developing countries for shipment of seeds to the Seed Vault. www.croptrust.org

SDG Advocates
At a UN Summit in 2015, UN member states agreed on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General’s SDG Advocates were subsequently appointed to mobilize the global community to achieve the SDGs. www.unsdgadvocates.org

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