An isolated archipelago far out in the ocean holds one of humanity’s greatest treasures: a “central bank” for the world’s seeds.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built to hold duplicate collections of seeds on behalf of gene banks. The seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be accessed only when the original seed collections have been lost, for whatever reason.
In this 16-minute documentary by GoPro, the world-renowned scientist Cary Fowler explains the need for the vault, while sharing some insights into the future of crops.
Fowler was formerly employed as the director of the Crop Trust – the company behind the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – and is today serving as a senior advisor. He has been with the project almost from its inception and continues to advocate for sustainable agricultural development.
What is a seed vault?
It’s not a gene bank, but rather a safe storage facility. Here duplicate collections of seeds are preserved on behalf of gene banks. The seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be accessed only when the original seed collections have been lost, for whatever reason.
How many seeds will be stored at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
The vault has the capacity to store 4,5 million different seed samples. Each sample will contain on average 500 seeds, to a maximum of 2,25 billion seeds. Svalbard will therefore have the capacity to accommodate all the unique seed samples that are conserved by gene banks. These total approximately 1 400 in more than 100 countries. It also has the capacity to store many new seed samples that may be collected in the future.
What type of seeds may be stored there?
Priority will be given to crops that are important for food production and sustainable agriculture. This is of the utmost importance for developing countries where food security is a challenge. More than 7 000 plant species have historically been used in human diets; however, fewer than 150 species are used in modern agriculture. Only 12 plant species represent the major vegetable source in today’s menu. Many varieties and great genetic diversity may be found within each plant species; for example, there are more than 100 000 varieties of rice.
Want to know more about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault? Head over to this article (click) for more info.
Video credit: GoPro