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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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A Global Step Unites Humanity To Safeguard Their Agricultural Heritage


Svalbard’s preparation aims at sustaining agricultural diversity during any catastrophe.

Dailycsr.com – 29 March 2016 – The remote vault, in another words the “ultimate agricultural failsafe for cities and populations around the globe”, with the volume capable of accommodating “billions of seeds” lies in the “northernmost inhabited place” on earth hidden permanently beneath “frozen mountainscape”.
In today’s global food habits, most of our food supplies can be met with only just twelve plant species; as a result there has been a sharp dip in the “seed biodiversity”, whereby seed preservation to retain “crop diversity” as taken an important seat. Once farmers stop using particular kind of seeds, they eventually tread the path of extinction.
There was a global decision of addressing the issue of “seed extinction” back in the year of 2004, whereby establishing the “International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture”. There are several genebanks that keep seed collections safely. However, preparing to face “natural disasters, human catastrophes or other failures”, a “backup location” for protecting “seed duplicates” was created.
The “Svalbard Global Seed Vault” is the result of such efforts, which was funded by the Norwegian government, while the operations are partly looked after by “Norway, the Nordic Genetic Resources Center and the Crop Trust”. The Crop Trust’s “partnerships and communications assistant”, Cierra Martin, said:
“Plans to construct the Seed Vault started as early as the 1980s, but they didn’t have international agreement to regulate the area or to support such a huge endeavor, so things fell by the wayside. With the coming-into-force of the international treaty in 2004, that set a good legal foundation for the creation of the vault”.
Martin further explained:
“The vault is really interesting, but at the same time it’s essentially a natural freezer in the side of a mountain. You enter into a small holding chamber of sorts, then you walk through another door into this long tunnel – it’s about 120 meters long – that slopes downward deeper into the mountain. At the end of the tunnel, there are three separate vault rooms. Each has the capacity to hold over 1 million seed samples.”
At present, only three quarters of the “first seed storage” at Svalbard have been filled with “only 880,837 seed samples”, while Trust believes that they soon will have to “start coling down the second vault”. Many institutions have, so far, deposited seeds at Svalbard, while only once a withdrawal has taken place in the year of 2015 during the “escalating war in Syria”, while Martin added:
“The material itself wasn’t in danger in Aleppo, but [ICARDA] couldn’t carry out their routine genebank operations. Genebanks do two major things: They conserve materials from being lost in the wild, and they share that material with users around the world. The problem was that they couldn’t share the materials because of the conflicts going on in Syria, meaning their center had basically just become a seed museum.”
With the age of under a decade, the global seed vault has “long-term plans” up its sleeves, whereby currently it is “raising an endowment with a goal of US$850 million”. The aim is that if ever anything catastrophe were to strike on the “1,700 genebanks” present around the globe, the world would still be able to sustain agricultural activities to “repopulate and maintain crop diversity”. Martin stated:
“If something happens to a genebank, which is conserving precious seed material, it could mean the loss of an entire collection. And the loss of a crop variety is just like an animal going extinct in the wild. When you’ve already lost your first [seed] collection or you’ve lost your first backup collection, the vault is the final fail-proof option keeping this material from extinction.”