Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

World's Largest Seed Bank Hits One Million Unique Food Crops

Food
Nestled in the Svalbard archipelago lies a small unassuming-yet-sturdy building housing the world's largest collection of crop diversity. Crop Trust

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle—also known as the "doomsday vault" safeguarding the world's most diverse collection of seeds—now holds 1,059,646 unique crop varieties after receiving more than 70,000 samples on Monday.

Depositors from 23 seed banks around the world braved sub-zero temperatures to deliver duplicate seeds of vital staples such as rice, wheat and maize; black-eyed pea, a major protein source in Africa and South Asia; and samples of sorghum, pearl millet and pigeon pea. Several lesser-known crops such as the Estonian onion potato and the Bambara groundnut, a drought-tolerant crop being developed in Africa, also made the journey.


"Hitting the million mark is really significant," Hannes Dempenwolf, senior scientist of the Crop Trust, an international organization that funds and manages a global system of seed collections, told BBC.

"Only a few years back I don't think we would have thought that we would get there."

Monday also marked the tenth anniversary of the Global Seed Vault. The vault, located on the side of a mountain on a remote Norwegian island, is designed to safeguard the planet's precious seed varieties against loss of crop diversity caused by climate change, natural disasters or war.

Deliveries are made several times a year from countries that include the U.S., Australia, Burundi, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, North Korea, Russia and many others.

"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 Marie Haga, executive director of the Crop Trust, in a statement.

"Safeguarding such a huge range of seeds means scientists will have the best chance of developing nutritious and climate- resilient crops that can ensure future generations don't just survive, but thrive."

The vault can store up to 4.5 million varieties of crops. Each variety contains an average of 500 seeds, which amounts to a maximum capacity of 2.5 billion seeds.

Last year, the vault suffered flooding after warmer-than-average temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to thaw. No seeds were damaged, but the Norwegian government is working to protect the vault against increasingly extreme weather. Norway announced Friday it plans to spend $13 million on upgrades that will cover "construction of a new, concrete-built access tunnel, as well as a service building to house emergency power and refrigerating units and other electrical equipment that emits heat through the tunnel," the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

"The tenth anniversary is a major milestone for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," said Jon Georg Dale, the Minister of Agriculture for the Norwegian government, which jointly runs the facility with the Crop Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center.

"It comes at a time when agriculture is facing multiple challenges from extreme weather and the demands of a world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. This means it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds—the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture—are safely conserved."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market.
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images

Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
A customer packs groceries in reusable bags at a NYC supermarket on March 1, 2020. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ingredients are displayed for the Old School Pinto Beans from the Decolonize Your Diet cookbook by Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Melissa Renwick / Toronto Star via Getty Images

By Molly Matthews Multedo

Livestock farming contributes to global warming, so eating less meat can be better for the climate.

Read More Show Less
Locals board up their shops in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila on April 6, 2020 ahead of Tropical Cyclone Harold. PHILIPPE CARILLO / AFP via Getty Images

The most powerful extreme weather event of 2020 lashed the Pacific nation of Vanuatu Monday as it tries to protect itself from the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Two rare Malayan tiger cubs born at the Bronx Zoo in January 2016, Nadia and Azul made their public debut in September 2016. Nadia has now tested positive for the new coronavirus, and Azul has shown symptoms.

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo is believed to be the first animal in the U.S. and the first tiger in the world to test positive for the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less