Africa / Asia / Biodiversity / Climate Change / Ethiopia / Fodder / Forages / Genebank / ILRI / Latin America / Seeds

ILRI forage germplasm stored in Addis genebank travels to the Arctic’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

‘The Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated its third anniversary with the arrival of seeds for rare lima beans, blight-resistant cantaloupe, and progenitors of antioxidant-rich red tomatoes from Peru and the Galapagos Islands. The arrival of these collections, including many drought- and flood-resistant varieties, comes at a time when natural and man-made risks to agriculture have reinforced the critical need to secure all the world’s food crop varieties.

The seeds arriving for safekeeping in the depths of an Arctic Mountain on Norway’s remote Svalbard Archipelago included major deposits from gene banks maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which is the largest single contributor of seeds to the vault. . . .

‘The International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is depositing forage crops. In Arizona, a Navajo ceremony was held to bless seeds of rare desert legumes from the University of Arizona before they began their long journey to Svalbard.

‘The new accessions . . . will be added to the more than 600,000 already stored at Svalbard. . . .

‘“The optimism generated by the arrival of this incredible bumper crop of contributions is tempered by the threats that seem to emerge almost daily to seed collections around the world,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which manages the Seed Vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center in Sweden. “As the threats to agriculture escalate, the importance of crop diversity grows.”

‘A vivid example of some of the threats facing genebanks is when unrest in Egypt led to the looting of the Egyptian Desert Gene Bank in North Sinai. At the Desert Gene Bank, home to a prized collection of fruit and medicinal plants, looters stole equipment, destroyed the facility’s cooling system, and ruined data that represented more than a decade worth of research. Meanwhile, the Global Crop Diversity Trust continues to fight plans to bulldoze the field collections at Russia’s Pavlovsk Experimental Station, Europe’s most important collection of fruits and berries, to make way for a housing development.

‘The Norwegian vault’s third anniversary also brings reminders of natural threats to crop diversity and the food security it maintains. . . .

‘While crop diversity is critical to adapting agriculture to climate change, it is also at risk of being lost due to rapid changes in climate and farm environments. . . .’

Read the whole article in Summit County Citizens Voice: Stocking up at the global seed vault, 28 February 2011.

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