Press Release

Deposit to Svalbard for World Food Day

WORLD FOOD DAY – THOUSANDS MORE CROP VARIETIES TO ARRIVE AT GLOBE’S BIGGEST SEED VAULT

SVALBARD, NORWAY

Almost 10,000 crop varieties from more than 100 countries will be deposited in the world’s biggest seed bank this week – a major contribution to the fight for global food security in the face of the growing threat of climate change.

Coinciding with World Food Day on 16 October, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago off the northern coast of Norway, is accepting a series of deposits this month.

This month’s four shipments come from major genebanks based in Bulgaria, Colombia, India, and Taiwan. Genebanks are facilities in which seeds are preserved under special conditions designed to keep them alive for decades. The deposits will include varieties of wheat, barley, maize, cowpeas, sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon pea, groundnut, Asian and African eggplant, and a number of indigenous African vegetables, including okra, amaranth, spider plant, and jute mallow. They will join more than 825,000 samples from around the world already stored at Svalbard – encapsulating 13,000 years of agricultural history.

Crop diversity is essential for crop improvement and agricultural resilience, and is therefore vital in the battle against hunger, especially in a fast-changing climate. The deposit from Bulgaria, for example, contains local varieties of wheat, barley and maize that are tolerant to pests and diseases, and peas that are tolerant to drought – making them particularly suitable for dry climates

recent study co-authored by the Global Crop Diversity Trust found that the world food supply has grown increasingly dependent on few crops over the past 50 years. Climate change will affect the ability of these crops to thrive, and pressure will increase on the global food system, whilst the global population continues to grow.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, the only international organisation devoted solely to ensuring the conservation and availability of crop diversity worldwide, funds the operations of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, said:

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault symbolises how we can create a long-term, sustainable and positive solution to feed the world forever.

“The issue of hunger is global, and increasingly urgent. If we continue as we are, food production will be reduced and food prices will rise. Even more people will go hungry. Crop diversity is essential if we are to provide more food, more nutritious food and affordable food for the poor. Maintaining crop diversity, and the genetic wealth it provides to current and future generations, is beneficial not just to crop breeders, but to the farmers that feed all of us on the planet.

“I call upon national governments, scientists and all who care about the food security to join us in highlighting this vital issue, and for genebanks around the world to send their seeds to Svalbard to safe keeping.”

Ola Westengen, Coordinator of Operation and Management at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, said:

“NordGen welcomes the new safety deposits from our partners in India, Colombia, and Taiwan. We are particularly pleased to have received the first seeds from a new depositor, the Institute of Plant Genetic Resources, in Bulgaria. 

“Every time a new depositor joins the Seed Vault partnership, or we receive new deposits from our existing partners, we’re moving one step closer to our goal of safety duplicating all unique crop seed diversity in the world.”

Hari D Upadhyaya, Principal Scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in India, said:

“ICRISAT has been depositing seed samples regularly over the years in Svalbard, and with this latest shipment the total samples for safety back-up we have sent will now stand at 108,352. This is a remarkable contribution to the future of our crops.

“The Global Crop Diversity Trust is performing a hugely important role, in saving the diversity of important food crops from extinction as well as supporting several genetic resource activities globally – whether it be collection, evaluation, regeneration, documentation, distribution and conservation. Without their active role, coupled with the support of donors and national governments, our future food security would be under even greater threat.”

Dr. Andreas Ebert, Genebank Manager at the World Vegetable Centre, based in Taiwan, said:

“We have made five deposits since 2008, and Svalbard is a truly vital global instrument to safeguard the world’s valuable plant genetic resources, for the benefit of future generations and the survival of humankind. This deposit safeguards unique vegetable genetic resources in the global system.

“The Global Crop Diversity Trust’s work merits the full support of donors and national governments as it allows us to put in place a rational and cost-effective system for the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, forever.”  

Further seed deposits at Svalbard will take place in November 2014, and in February 2015.

ENDS

For more information please contact Paul Gough on 020 3463 0825 or 07415 297984, or by email at paul.gough@plmr.co.uk

Notes for editors: 

This month’s depositors to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are the:

 

The Global Crop Diversity Trust:

  • Is the sole international organisation devoted solely to ensuring the conservation and availability of crop diversity worldwide
  • Was initially founded by the FAOUN and Bioversity International. Over the past 10 years it has raised around USD $175 million for the Crop Diversity Fund.
  • Spearheaded the biggest biological rescue operation of nearly 80,000 crop varieties while working with more than 100 institutions in more than 80 countries. As well as national governments, it has a number of high-profile supporters, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Supports and co-ordinates the gathering of plant materials; supports international partners who conserve and document crop diversity; ensuring the raw material is saved for future generations, through a global network of organisations.
  • Helps to fund the operating costs of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
  • Is described through a short film on its work here

 

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault:

  • Otherwise known as the ‘Noah’s Ark of Seeds’, is a safe and secure vault for up to 3 million samples of crops from all over the world, which helps to guarantee world food security forever.
  • Is based on a remote island between Norway and the North Pole. Opened in 2008, it currently holds more than 825,000 samples of crops. The facility was built and is owned by the Government of Norway.
  • Offers storage, free of charge, of safety duplicates from the seed collections being held in seed banks around the world.
  • Consists of three separate underground chambers, each of which has a storage capacity of 1.5 million seed samples. With the aid of its own cooling facility running on electricity from the local power plant, the vault is designed to maintain a constant temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius. The vault contains storage shelves on which the prepacked samples of crop seeds from the depositors (international collections, national collections, and seed-saving organization collections) are placed.
  • Is supported by the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) – the implementing partner of the Crop Trust and the Norwegian Government.

 

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT):

  • Has one of the 11 CGIAR genebanks held in-trust by the international community and supported by the Global Crop Diversity Trust
  • The Global Crop Diversity Trust’s Crop Diversity Fund supports the collections of chickpea, sorghum, and pearl millet at ICRISAT through long-term grants
  • Conserves over 121,500 germplasm accessions assembled from 144 countries.

 

Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT):

  • Has one of the 11 CGIAR genebanks held in-trust by the international community and supported by the Global Crop Diversity Trust
  • The Global Crop Diversity Trust’s Crop Diversity Fund supports the collections of beans and cassava at CIAT through long-term grants
  • The international bean collection at CIAT comprises more than 37,000 samples and the cassava collection comprises more than 6,000 samples
  • In the “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting, and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives” project led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, CIAT completed an analysis of gaps in the conservation of the wild relatives of 29 globally important crops.

 

World Food Day:

  • Highlights the urgent issue of chronic hunger and promotes positive action through events in some 150 countries.
  • Encourages attention to agricultural food production and to stimulate national, bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental efforts.
  • Strengthens international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.

 

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