Securing the foundation of our food supply

Today the Svalbard Global Seed Vault welcomes 40,507 new seed samples from nine genebank depositors, including collections from Latvia, Morocco, Taiwan, USA, Netherlands, Israel, Poland, Zambia, and Italy.

Set 120 meters inside an Arctic mountainside on remote Spitsbergen Island, the Seed Vault is the world’s largest crop diversity collection in a single location and the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples remain frozen even if power is lost, securing millions of seeds representing important crop varieties from around the world.

With 20,300 more samples from 374 species and subspecies of crops, the largest deposit on this occasion comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), who has been shipping safety duplicate seeds to the Vault since its opening.

– The preservation and use of local seeds is essential for safeguarding local food production. Each time we deposit new seeds in Svalbard, it enhances global food security for the future. Small-scale farming accounts for 75 % of the world’s cultivated land. In developing countries, small-scale farmers produce 80 % of all food. But paradoxically, it is poor small-scale farmers who are most vulnerable to hunger in many countries, says Sandra Borch, Minister of Agriculture and Food for Norway.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Sandra Borch
Minister of Agriculture and Food Sandra Borch Credit: Torbjørn Tandberg

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) will back-up nearly 9,050 samples of 145 species and subspecies, including cereals and legumes, making their deposit the 2nd largest.

– Crop diversity is a unique source of novel adaptive traits that can provide resilience in modern crops to tackle the current and future agricultural challenges. Under no circumstances should we jeopardize it," says Athanasios Tsivelikas, from ICARDA. "We are deeply imbued with the crucial role that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds for food security, for the generations to come."

The 3rd largest deposit this June comes from the World Vegetable Centre, who are backing up nearly 8,550 samples from 178 species of vegetable, aromatic and medicinal plants.

Seed boxes from many gene banks and many countries stored side by side on the shelves in the Seed Vault.
Seed boxes from many gene banks and many countries stored side by side on the shelves in the Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Riccardo Gangale

– Seeds stored in genebanks face risks, as there are uncontrollable factors such as war, fire, and mechanical failures that can lead to the loss of seeds. Backup storage outside the country of origin can effectively mitigate these risks, making the Vault key for protecting our heritage for future generations, says Maarten van Zonneveld, Genebank Manager of the World Vegetable Centre.

The Institute of Biosciences and BioResources from Italy will deposit 392 samples of two species of wheat, making them first time depositors to the Vault.

– We are happy to back up our oldest collection, dating from our first collecting missions in the 1970s, where many of these accessions have since become extinct. Safeguarding agro-biodiversity is of fundamental importance for the future of humanity, which depends on agriculture and food. Preserving and making seeds available to scientists and breeders is an increasingly important and urgent need, says Gaetano Laghetti of the Institute of Biosciences and BioResources, Italy.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Credit: Ministry of Agriculture and Food

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is owned by Norway and managed in partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the regional genebank NordGen, and the Crop Trust. As 2023 marks the 15th anniversary of the Vault, the partners this year opened its doors to the world -- virtually -- through a new virtual tour, allowing the global public to experience the inside of the remote Seed Vault.

The full list of the nine genebank depositors who are delivering rare seed varieties to Longyearbyen for the occasion of its 15th anniversary can be found below:

Genetic Resource Center of the Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava"


The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Morocco


World Vegetable Centre


Institute of Biosciences and BioResources


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)


Centre for Genetic Resources (CGN)

The Netherlands

University of Haifa




The SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre (SPGRC)


About the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the legal and administrative body of the Seed Vault and has the overall responsibility for its management, security, and funding. The Ministry has assigned Statsbygg, the key adviser on construction and property to the Norwegian Government to be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the Seed Vault.

About the Crop Trust

The Crop Trust is an international organization working to conserve crop diversity and thus protect global food and nutrition security. At the core of Crop Trust is an endowment fund dedicated to providing guaranteed long-term financial support to key genebanks worldwide. The Crop Trust supports the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and coordinates large-scale projects worldwide to secure crop diversity and make it available for use, globally forever and for the benefit of everyone. The Crop Trust is recognized as an essential element of the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

About NordGen

NordGen is the Nordic countries’ genebank and knowledge center for genetic resources. As the operational manager of the Seed Vault, NordGen is responsible for handling the seeds inside the Seed Vault; communicating with genebanks; and maintaining a publicly accessible online database with information on the seed samples stored in the Seed Vault (

In front of the Seed Vaul
In front of the Seed Vault - from the left, Åsmund Asdal, Seed Vault coordinator, Domenico De Paola, researcher at IBBR-CNR in Bari, Gabriella Sonnante, research director of IBBR-CNR in Bari, Gaetano Laghetti, curator of the IBBR genebank and Ignazio Verde, research director of CREA-MASAF in Rome. The group is bringing the two first seed boxes from IBBR to the Seed Vault. Credit: NorGen