In the News

Pandemics aren’t limited to people

How the world’s most famous seed vault defends plants against their next big outbreak

Simran Sethi | The Counter
Banner photo: NordGen

In March, plant physiologist Stephanie Greene zipped herself into a padded snowsuit made to withstand sub-zero temperatures and trudged from a shuttle van parked at the bottom of an icy hill to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault—a small, secure site chiseled into rock and buried under permafrost about 650 miles from the North Pole. Outside the entrance, in the blistering cold, she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of other conservationists from a range of home nations—from Morocco and Romania to the Philippines and Zambia—to make a historic deposit of diverse seeds: some of which are central to our diet, others that rare, all of which are precious. These offerings would join the facility’s “library of life,” a collection now topping over 1 million seeds from 85 different global seed collections, intended to secure our future food supply.

“To be surrounded by colleagues from all over the world who understand the importance of securing our genetic resources,” Greene said, “was a highlight of my life.”

Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have saved seeds, roots, and other kinds of genetic material, modifying them in attempts to make the foods we consume more prolific, resilient, and delicious. Over centuries, these efforts have gotten more sophisticated, but a single theme endures: Having access to a broad range of genetic traits allows us to meet the challenges we face in growing and raising food. Scientists, farmers, and food companies rely on genetic diversity to breed new varieties that increase yields, make crops more nutritious or climate-tolerant, and mitigate the pests and diseases that ravage plant and animal populations—the sudden, devastating outbreaks that are not dissimilar from our current human pandemic.

Read the full story

News

Filter by
  • News
  • Social
Blog

New Alfalfa Varieties Take Root

Read More
Blog

Vision for 2030: Closing the Gap Between Ideal and Reality

Read More
Blog

Stay-Green Sorghum to the Rescue

Read More
Blog

Strawberry Seeds Deposited at the First Svalbard Global Seed Vault Opening of 2021

Read More
Blog

A Sweet Deposit to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Read More
Blog

16 Women Scientists Securing the Future of our Food

Read More
Blog

Reflections on the Dasgupta Review

Read More
Blog

Battling Biotic Stress in Farmers’ Fields

Read More
Blog

Tell Us What You Think

Read More
Blog

Wild Bananas from Papua New Guinea Boost Food Security for All

Read More
Blog

Crop Science Special Issue Shows Why Crops Need to Get Wild

Read More
Press Release

Adapting Crops to Climate Change: Paving the Way for More Resilient Agriculture

Read More
Blog

Let’s Meet Up for Tea

Read More
Blog

A New Decade for Biodiversity Protection

Read More