Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Seed bank is a type of gene bank that aims to preserve genetic diversity in the form of seeds. Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank located   on the Spitsbergen Island of Norway. It was started by Cary Flower, an American agriculturist, also known as the “father” of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in association with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The vault aims to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicate samples of seeds held in other gene banks across the world. It thus ensures the alternative available during any kind of accidental loss of seeds in other gene banks. Currently, the seed vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Crop Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. The cost of construction of the Seed Vault was met by the Norway Government, while the operational cost is funded by the organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from various governments worldwide.

Why was it in news?

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located 360 feet deep under the 1,500-foot Platåberget Mountain. This region experiences permafrost for most of the time in a year. But recently, it faced a grave existential threat due to sudden melting of permafrost, which flooded the access tunnel with water.

Salient Features of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was commissioned in 2008.
  • It is capable enough to withstand manmade and natural disasters.
  • Seeds at this vault are locked in airtight boxes at minus 18 degrees Celsius.
  • Millions of seeds of crop varieties from Indian rice to Uzbek corn.
  • It is theoretically protected against conventional bombs, and sits out of reach of rising sea levels.
  • Nearly 9 crore seeds of Indian origin have been sent to Svalbard.
  • It also has its National Genebank, which is one of the world’s most modern Genebank with capacity to store up to 1.25 million samples.

Svalbard seed bank vault is very important for conserving seeds for the future. In 2015, when the Syrian conflict had made it difficult to access seeds of drought- and heat-resistant local wheat; this seed bank was accessed to meet the domestic demand. Therefore, Norway government, with the help of other government is taking the measures to provide additional security to the seed vault.