In an effort to ensure global food security, 10,000 new varieties of crops from around the world are being added to the ‘doomsday’ seed vault in the Arctic. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on an island off Norway’s northern coast, already stores 825,000 samples of seeds, which represent 13,000 years of agricultural history. The vault provides a back-up to the network of seed banks around the world, which store seeds but can be threatened by war, accidents and natural disasters. Protecting the diversity of the world’s crops is ‘fundamental’ for ensuring food security in the face of climate change, warned the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), which manages the vault.
A series of deliveries of seeds to Svalbard this month will help in that fight, the GCDT said. Four shipments from major genebanks based in Bulgaria, Colombia, India and Taiwan are delivering varieties from more than 100 countries. The shipments include types of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, peal millet, chickpea, groundnut, Asian and African aubergine. Seeds of a number of indigenous African vegetables, including okra, amaranth, spider plant and jute mallow are also being deposited. Preserving different food plant varieties will help breed and develop crops that can withstand a changing climate, for example, by being more drought resistant or able to cope with higher temperatures, the trust said.
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 this planet.’ The GCDT is calling on governments, businesses, foundations and wealthy individuals to contribute to a £500 million ($800 million) endowment fund which will pay to conserve crop varieties in perpetuity.