The Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrates its 15th anniversary with new seed deposits

Today, the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was celebrated by 20 international gene banks depositing 20,000 new seed samples in the vault in Longyearbyen.

Four of these gene banks are first time contributors: Benin, North Macedonia, Albania and Croatia. After today's deposit, there are now 1.2 million seed samples from 100 genebanks from all continents of the world stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The total capacity is 4.5 million seed samples.

– The Svalbard Global Seed Vault offers a long-term security measure in a world where natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, man-made war and conflict and events like long-term power cuts will affect plant diversity and thus future agriculture, said the Norwegian Minister for Agriculture and Food Sandra Borch during today's seed deposit.

To ensure that the new seeds were safely deposited, Borch had invited all children aged 15 living in Longyearbyen to assist in the 15th anniversary deposits. – This is not a symbolic act, but a legacy and a stewardship of great importance for the world's food security which we pass on to the young and future generations, says Borch.

The entrance to the seed vault in a sunny dawn on the 15th anniversary. 28/2/2023.
The entrance to the seed vault in a sunny dawn on the 15th anniversary. 28/2/2023. Credit: Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Karen Ellemann, secretary general of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the organization that finances the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) and Stefan Schmitz, managing director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) which supports genebanks worldwide, also joined the celebration.

The world's largest secure reserve repository

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located 78 degrees north of the Equator, is the world's largest secure reserve repository, and stores copies of seed samples from almost every country in the world. The seed vault is artificially cooled to minus 18 degrees, and the permafrost and massive rock ensure that the seed samples remain frozen even if the power supply is subject to periodic fluctuations. The seed vault is the critical ultimate defense in securing the world's food supply. It stores the largest global security reserve of seeds for food and feed crops. These seed samples represent more than 5,000 species.

The seeds are safely placed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
The seeds are safely placed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Credit: Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Matthias Heyde

Proven worth

The seed vault has already proven its worth. The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) originally stored its seed collection in Aleppo, Syria. Now the seed collection has been restored in Morocco and Lebanon with the help of reserve seeds previously deposited in the seed vault. Reconstructing these collections would not have been possible without depositing back-up seed samples copies for storage in Svalbard.

Media contacts:

Ministry of Agriculture and Food: Heidi Eriksen Riise.
E-mail: Heidi-Eriksen.Riise@lmd.dep.no, Telephone: +47 975 17 227

NordGen: Sara Landqvist.
E-mail: sara.landqvist@nordgen.org, Telephone: +46 763033388

Crop Trust: Luis Salazar. E-mail: luis.salazar@croptrust.org

Facts:

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest safety reserve repository for the world's crop diversity, with more than 1 million seeds stored in vaults set 130 meters deep into the mountainside. The seed vault is located 78 degrees north of the Equator, and offers gene banks optimal storage conditions for safety duplicates, free of charge. The seed vault was established and is owned by Norway, and is operated as a joint project by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Nordic Genetic Resources Center (NordGen) and the international organization Crop Trust.