Skip to comments.Thousands Of Crop Varieties Depart For Arctic Seed Vault
Posted on 01/26/2008 11:09:25 PM PST by blam
Thousands Of Crop Varieties Depart For Arctic Seed Vault
Packaging seeds. Thousands of Crop Varieties from Four Corners of the World Depart for Arctic Seed Vault. (Credit: CIMMYT, Mexico.)
ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2008) At the end of January, more than 200,000 crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle Eastdrawn from vast seed collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)will be shipped to a remote island near the Arctic Circle, where they will be stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), a facility capable of preserving their vitality for thousands of years.
The cornucopia of rice, wheat, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, lentils, chick peas and a host of other food, forage and agroforestry plants is to be safeguarded in the facility, which was created as a repository of last resort for humanitys agricultural heritage. The seeds will be shipped to the village of Longyearbyen on Norways Svalbard archipelago, where the vault has been constructed on a mountain deep inside the Arctic permafrost.
The vault was built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community, and a Rome-based international NGO, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, will fund its operation. The vault will open on February 26, 2008.
This first installment from the CGIAR collections will contain duplicates from international agricultural research centers based in Benin, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Syria. Collectively, the CGIAR centers maintain 600,000 plant varieties in crop genebanks, which are widely viewed as the foundation of global efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity.
Our ability to endow this facility with such an impressive array of diversity is a powerful testament to the incredible work of scientists at our centers, who have been so dedicated to ensuring the survival of the worlds most important crop species, said Emile Frison, Director General of Rome-based Bioversity International, which coordinates CGIAR crop diversity initiatives.
The CGIAR collections are the crown jewels of international agriculture, said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which will cover the costs of preparing, packaging and transporting CGIAR seeds to the Arctic. They include the worlds largest and most diverse collections of rice, wheat, maize and beans. Many traditional landraces of these crops would have been lost had they not been collected and stored in the genebanks.
For example, the wheat collection held just outside Mexico City by the CGIAR-supported International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) contains 150,000 unique samples of wheat and its relatives from more than 100 countries. It is the largest unified collection in the world for a single crop. Overall, the maize collection represents nearly 90 percent of maize diversity in the Americas, where the crop originated. CIMMYT will continue to send yearly shipments of regenerated seed until the entire collection of maize and wheat has been backed up at Svalbard.
Storage of these and all the other seeds at Svalbard is intended to ensure that they will be available for bolstering food security should a manmade or natural disaster threaten agricultural systems, or even the genebanks themselves, at any point in the future.
We need to understand that genebanks are not seed museums but the repositories of vital, living resources that are used almost every day in the never-ending battle against major threats to food production, Bioversity Internationals Frison said. Were going to need this diversity to breed new varieties that can adapt to climate change, new diseases and other rapidly emerging threats.
Why are genebanks important?
The CGIAR collections are famous in plant breeding circles as a treasure trove for plant breeders searching for traits to help them combat destructive crop diseases and pests, such as the black sigatoka fungus, which is devastating banana production in East Africa, and grain borer beetle, which is destroying maize in Kenya.
Just from January to August of 2007, CGIAR centers distributed almost 100,000 samples. The materials mainly go to researchers and plant breeders seeking genetic traits to create new crop varieties that offer such benefits as higher yields, improved nutritional value, resistance to pests and diseases, and the ability to survive changing climatic conditions, which are expected to make floods and drought more frequent.
In addition, these collections have often been used to help restore agricultural systems after conflicts and natural disasters.
For example, among the 135,000 food and forage seeds maintained at the CGIAR-supported International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, Syria, 3,000 varieties are native to Afghanistan, and 1,000 are from Iraq. The seeds preserved have been used to help revitalize crop diversity in these war-torn regions.
Svalbard will be able to help replenish genebanks if theyre hit, said Cary Fowler. Iraqs genebank in the town of Abu Ghraib was ransacked by looters in 2003. Fortunately there was a safety duplicate at the CGIAR center in Syria. Typhoon Xangsane seriously damaged the genebank of the Philippines national rice genebank in 2006. Unfortunately, these kinds of national genebank horror stories are fairly common place, said Fowler. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault makes the CGIARs genebank collections safer than ever.
After the Asian tsunami disaster of 2004, the CGIAR-supported International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) used its collections to provide farmers with rice varieties suitable for growing in fields that had been inundated with salt water. The genebank at the CGIAR-supported International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Palmira, Colombia was instrumental in providing bean varieties to farmers in Honduras and Nicaragua in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
According to Geoff Hawtin, Acting Director General of CIAT and former executive director of the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust, The shipments going to Svalbard from the CGIAR genebanks are a vital measure for further safeguarding the worlds crop collections. With coming climatic changes, higher food prices, and expanding markets for biofuels, our best available options for progress, if not survival, will be in what we have conserved and studied against all thinkable predictions.
Adapted from materials provided by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
Just a suggestion. Don’t forget the demon seed.
Send the Clintons down there...
Sounds like a good idea.
a pretty rational idea, actually, if government workers didnt actually get to plan the facility itself.
I assume this group of scientists does not believe in global warming.
Great point. Love it.
...do you get the idea that they know something we don’t? Is there an asteroid headed our way or something?
No, they believe in climate change. Global warming is passe at this point. Get with it, man.
With coming climatic changes, higher food prices, and expanding markets for biofuels, our best available options for progress, if not survival, will be in what we have conserved and studied against all thinkable predictions.
Why? If globle warming and hilary care is going to destroy us all, what the hell do we seeds for?
Statistically speaking, yes, there are asteroid strikes in our planet's future.
But did they gather any Wildwood Weed seeds?
All good things gotta come to an end,
And it’s the same with the wildwood weed.
One day this feller from Washington came by,
And he spied it and turned white as a sheet.
Then they dug and they burned,
And they burned and they dug,
And they killed all our cute little weeds.
Then they drove away,
We just smiled and waved ..........
Sittin’ there on that sack of seeds!
Hopefully so that we won't have to go back through the 'hunter-gatherer' stage again.
"Genetic evidence suggests that Human population size fell to about 10,000 adults between 50 and 100 thousand years ago."
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I'd hate to see some "Twilight Zone" ending to this where the Brave New World has all the seed it needs, but no soil to grow it in.
It’s just a matter of time that we get smacked real hard.
No-one that will know where the seeds are will survive anyway.
For example: Pick any 100 people in every city in the world...I expect not one will even know there is a seed vault much less where it's located.
BTW, I have my own seed, fertlizer and pesticide vault.
Ah, but the mighty Goracle, who is wise beyond measure, says that the seeds will be flooded out soon. (sarcasm -for the record)
Maybe Yellowstone really is gonna explode?
I am really glad that seeds that are not artificially, genetically altered are being protected somewhere.