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It’s the blue season at Svalbard. The sun is not yet over the horizon but sheds its magical light on the barren mountains, where the peculiar looking Svalbard reindeers search for food under the snow. Little do they know that plenty of food in the form of seeds vital for humankind, is stored just a few hundred meters away, into the solid rock of the Plateau Mountain.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault currently holds more than 1,2 million seed samples, acting as a backup facility for seed genebanks throughout the world. Today, the number of samples increased by over 12 000 as NordGen put boxes from nine first-time depositing genebanks and 14 returning genebanks, on the cold shelves of the Seed Vault.


“After this week, the Seed Vault will hold seed samples from 111 genebanks situated in five different continents. If any of the genebanks lose access to their original seed collections, they can withdraw copies from Svalbard. The Seed Vault works much like an insurance - except that it is free-of-charge. Hopefully, you never need to use it, but if the worst should happen it’s crucial”, says Åsmund Asdal, Seed Vault Coordinator at NordGen.

Seeds from all Nordic countries

Many of the first-time depositors are genebanks that are part of the project BOLD, which aims to increase the capacity of genebanks preserving crop diversity in low-income countries. But today’s deposit event also included seeds of Danish kale, Finnish leek, Icelandic grass, Norwegian clover, Swedish barley, and yarrow from the Faroe Islands.


“We are very proud of the fact that almost 90% of the Nordic seed collection is backed up at Svalbard, providing a high level of security for the crops that are so vital for our resilience and self-sufficiency here in the North. It is also humbling to see which trust and respect the world community has for the Nordic countries in providing this service”, says Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Manager at NordGen. “I’m also very happy to see that these precious Nordic seeds have good company by representatives of all the Nordic countries and regions this time, as the NordGen Board meeting is arranged here. The board member’s visit will provide a greater understanding of the work NordGen conducts as operational manager of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault”, she continued.

Minister visit

The NordGen Board members aren’t the only prominent visitors to Svalbard this time. The Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Geir Pollestad, also attended the event and deposited forest seeds from Norway. He underlined the security aspect of the Seed vault.

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a long-term security measure for global food security. This deposit will be the largest number of new depositors that we have ever seen. After this deposit, 111 seed banks in around 80 countries will have a backup of their seeds in Svalbard. This is not a symbolic act; it is part of the countries’ security policy” he said.

The coming days, NordGen staff will organize, carry, and put the 50 seed boxes in place. To humankind, this is a token on how international collaboration can serve future generations. However, the peculiar looking reindeers will most probably just keep on grazing.