Many of you may have seen news reports a few weeks ago of the first significant withdrawal of seeds from the so called “Doomsday Vault” – the Svalbard Global Seed Vault supervised by the Norwegian government on behalf of the rest of the world – which stores seeds from nearly all the known essential food crops on the planet as a backup in the event of a global crisis or environmental catastrophe.
This withdrawal occurred when ICARDA – which was forced in 2012 to move its base from Aleppo in Syria to Lebanon – requested the return of some of the germplasm it had previously placed in the vault and no longer has access to in the region.
Coincidentally, ICRISAT’s latest shipment of germplasm arrived at the Svalbard facility around the same time; some 1662 accessions of our six mandate crops along with samples from the five small millets: foxtail millet, proso millet, little millet, kodo millet and barnyard millet.
ICRISAT has been contributing to the Global Seed Vault since 2008 under an agreement with the Crop Trust and NordGen (previously the Nordic Genebank) which saw our organisation pledge to safely duplicate all our FAO designated germplasm and deposit them at Svalbard.
Over the last 8 years we have deposited some 110,000 accessions in the vault – close to 99% of the agreed 111,000 pledged under the agreement with the Crop Trust. The accessions are expected to remain viable in this storage for at least 50 years.
My congratulations to Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Director of the Genebank at ICRISAT and his team and to Dr Åsmund Asdal , Svalbard Global Seed Vault Coordinator, NordGen for another successful transfer.
The story of ICARDA’s unprecedented request for a withdrawal of part of Syria’s germplasm from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault underlines just how important the work of ICRISAT’s own Genebank is to the maintenance of the world’s seed stocks and to future global food security.