The Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seedbank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago.
The facility was established to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from locations worldwide in an underground cavern.
The Seed Vault holds duplicate samples, or “spare” copies, of seeds held in genebanks worldwide.
The Seed Vault will provide insurance against the loss of seeds in genebanks, as well as a refuge for seeds in the case of large scale regional or global crises.
The island of Spitsbergen is about 1,120 kilometres (700 mi) from the North Pole.
Construction of the Seed Vault (which cost approximately 45 million Norwegian Kroner (NOK)/$9 million was funded entirely by the Government of Norway .
Storage of seeds in the Seed Vault is free of charge. Operational costs will be paid by Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust .
The primary funders of the Trust are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.K., Norway, Australia, Switzerland and Sweden, though funding has been received from a wide variety of sources including four developing countries: Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and India.
The Nordic Gene Bank has stored a backup of Nordic plant germplasm as frozen seeds in an abandoned coal mine at Svalbard since 1984.
The Nordic Gene Bank (NGB) has deposited more than 10,000 seed samples of more than 2,000 cultivars of 300 different species over the years. In addition, seed samples from southern Africa (SADC) have been safely duplicated with the Nordic collection for some years.
Both the Nordic and African collections are expected be transferred to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the future.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional genebanks.
While the popular press has emphasized its possible utility in the event of a major regional or global catastrophe,
it will certainly be more frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts and natural disasters.
Such events occur with some regularity. In recent years, some national genebanks have also been destroyed by war and civil strife.
There are some 1,400 crop diversity collections around the world, but many are in politically unstable or environmentally threatened nations.