The World Seed Bank, located on the island of Spitsbergen, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, received this Monday, February 14, 22,000 new samples from different countries, reports the Norwegian Government. Currently, the total number of reserves is approximately 1,125,000 seeds, with almost 5,500 species and 89 gene banks, according to official data from the organization.
The so-called ‘doomsday vault’, managed by the international organization Crop Trust, together with the Nordic Center for Genetic Resources and the Norwegian Government, was opened in 2008 and aims to conserve the planet’s agricultural biodiversity.
Scientists store frozen seeds of the world’s most important crops there in order to protect this genetic material from possible natural disasters, wars and other catastrophes. In addition, the collections serve farmers and scientists to genetically improve plants and develop new crop varieties.
Located on the island of Spitsbergen, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the repository is only open a few times a year to minimize the exposure of its seedbanks to the outside world. It is planned that during the year 2022 the bank will reopen at the beginning of June and at the end of October.
This time, genebanks from Sudan, Uganda, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Lebanon placed various types of seeds, including millet, sorghum and wheat, in the vault to renew their own collections, Norwegian authorities detail.
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, which carried out three seed withdrawals – in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – to recover collections damaged by the war in Syria, as well as the deposits located in Lebanon and Morocco, will place in the bank about 8,000 new samples.
“The fact that the seed collection destroyed in Syria during the civil war has been systematically rebuilt shows that the vault works as insurance for current and future food supplies and for local food security,” said the Minister for International Development. from Norway, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, quoted by Reuters.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recalls that, throughout history, of some 30,000 species of edible plants, 6,000-7,000 have been cultivated for food. Yet now about 40% of our calories come from just three major crops: corn, wheat and rice, making the food supply highly vulnerable should the effects of climate change damage the crops.