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Saving crop diversity, saving our future

​Approximately 1,000 km from the North Pole where there is no sun during the four months of winter, an inestimable wealth of future plant life is being amassed. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, situated in the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, is a key link in the network of the world’s 1,800-odd plant gene banks that joined their efforts to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food and agriculture.

In the past decades, it has become clearer that crop diversity is being eroded from farmers’ fields no less than the wild, due to the continuing transition around the world from traditional to modern agriculture, and forces such as habitat destruction, desertification, and urbanization. Maintaining a healthy variety of seeds and other plant genetic resources will be essential to keeping agricultural and food systems sustainable and resilient, generation after generation.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is safely duplicating the world’s most important crop collections. Approximately 6.5 million seeds sample are stored in it today. But the vault has the capacity to store more than 2.2 billion seeds that could cover all the unique seed samples that are conserved today, and many new seed samples that may be collected in the future. And the seeds keep coming to this isolated vault in a remote island of Norway from all over the world. The latest additions, arrived in the late February this year, are the 20,000 seed samples from Australia, Japan, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and the USA.

Monique Barbut, the UNCCD Executive Secretary who visited the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the occasion of the latest depository of seed samples at the invitation of the Crop Trust, emphasizes the importance of crop diversity for food  security of today and in the future. “Crop diversity is a prerequisite for food security,” she said. “We need to make crops climate ready. We need a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms so that we can develop more effective screening techniques for desired traits and identify wider gene pools to develop 'climate-proof' crops.”

See UNCCD News past issue on the Svalband Global Seed Vault:

Visit the Crop Trust web site:

Visit the official Svalband Global Seed Vault page:


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