HomeGlobal Seed VaultOne million seed samples safeguarded as Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrates 10 years

One million seed samples safeguarded as Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrates 10 years

Date: 23.02.2018 Author: Sara Landqvist Category: Global Seed Vault

During these ten first years of operation, NordGen has carried many seed samples from all around the world into safekeeping at Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Monday the 26th of February, 2018, marks the anniversary of the official inauguration in 2008 and it coincides with the number of seed samples in the Seed Vault exceeding one million. February 26 will also be a day when representatives from several different gene banks gather in Longyearbyen to discuss the importance of preserving the natural resource that plant genetic diversity constitutes.


Svalbard Global Seed Vault has more than once been compared to Fort Knox. In the distant archipelago of Svalbard, some 1300 kilometres from the north pole, lies the Seed Vault with its coarse walls, carved from the massive mountain. The similarities might be there, but Svalbard Global Seed Vault in fact safeguards a far more valuable content than any gold reserve.

– Here lies the key to our possibility of securing that the world’s growing population will have food to eat in the future, says Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director of NordGen.

Operated through three party agreement

Svalbard Global Seed Vault is established, owned and mainly financed by the Norwegian Government. The organisation Crop Trust contributes with some of the funds while NordGen is operating and managing the Seed Vault. This is all regulated in a three-party agreement. It is also NordGen, on behalf of the three parties, that arranges the 10 Year Anniversary.

– This is a rare happening, that so many experts from all around the world gather to discuss how we in the best possible way preserve plant genetic diversity, says Åsmund Asdal, Seed Vault Coordinator at NordGen.

Besides these experts, the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Jon Georg Dale, will participate in the events, as well as representatives of FAO and the private sphere. But the majority of the visitors will be gene bank representatives with experience of practical seed conservation.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Coordinator Åsmund Asdal in front of the Seed Vault.

– Many of the participants of the 10 Year Anniversary have spent several years on multiplying seeds for being able to send them to the Seed Vault. They have defied drought, cold summers, lack of financing and in some cases even war for being able to grant that generations to come will have access to the plant’s genetic resources of today. It often becomes very emotional when they come here and see that their seeds are safeguarded by us, Åsmund Asdal says.

The genetic diversity decreases

For the one not familiar with the world of the gene banks, it might be hard to understand why it’s so important with genetic diversity. Sure, from a historical point of view it has a great value that we are able to grow the same crops as our ancestors did. But the base of attributes that a wide variety of plant species can contribute with, also is the palette that is essential for our ability to develop new plant varieties that can resist new diseases and a changed climate.

– Here in Svalbard, the climate change is particularly visible. The ices melt and the eco systems change. The same things will, or already have begun to, happen farther to the south. But if we have older relatives of barley that can handle heavy rainfalls, or a forgotten variety of wheat that might survive longer periods of drought, we can develop new crop varieties which will feed our children and grandchildren who will live in a world with different preconditions than today, Lise Lykke Steffensen says.

Ambitious program

The 10 Year Anniversary holds a very ambitious program for the participants with an exciting workshop as well as a 10 Year Anniversary Deposit of seeds and a music and dance performance, inspired by the importance of Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission of ensuring our plant’s genetic diversity.

– The genetic diversity is, in many ways, similar to a collection of aquarelle paints. With many different colours in different nuances, one can paint the most incredible paintings. But with only one colour it’s close to impossible. In the same way we need to preserve all our plant’s nuances and attributes to make sure that we can feed the world’s growing population in the years to come as well, Lise Lykke Steffensen says.

Here you can read the entire program of Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s 10 Year Anniversary, February 25-27, 2018.