Locking up our future

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Located in one of the most inaccessible places on earth, The Global Seed Vault in Svalbard is essential for safeguarding our future. The vault was established in 2008, and its ten years anniversary was marked by an announcement from Norway: The Norwegian government will give 13 million USD on upgrading the vault, for better preservation of the precious seed varieties that it stores.

In a time when extreme weather challenges the agriculture, and a growing population demands more food production, it is more important than ever to protect the seed vault. Last year, the vault was flooded because the unusual warm temperatures in Svalbard caused permafrost to melt.  The money from the Norwegian government will be spent on upgrading the building to protect against these kinds of threats.

"The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an iconic reminder of the remarkable conservation effort that is taking place every day, around the world and around the clock—an effort to conserve the seeds of our food crops," said the executive director of the Crop Trust, Marie Haga.

The vault has a storage capacity of 4,5 million varieties, and this week it received more than 70 000 new samples of seeds. The varieties came from 23 seed banks all over the world. This means that the seed vault now stores 1 059 646 unique crop varieties – a number higher than ever expected. Among the new varieties was the relatively unknown Bambara groundnut, an African crop developed to survive droughts. Other crops that arrived, such as black-eyed pea, pearl millet and pigeon pea, are major protein sources for a large part of the developing world. The variety of crops in the seed vault is therefore vital for our future in a time when climate change, war and natural disasters are knocking on our door.