In February 2008, the eyes of the world focused on a frozen mountainside on an archipelago in northern Norway – the site of the Government of Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Vault was built to provide a backup system for storing and safeguarding samples of the world’s agricultural seeds deep inside a permafrost mountain.

The opening of the Seed Vault captured the imagination of the world, with journalists comparing it to a Noah’s ark for seeds. Today, as plans are made for observing the tenth anniversary of the Seed Vault, there can be no doubt as to the enormity and importance of this Norwegian contribution to the future of global food security.

During the ten years since Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg opened the Seed Vault on behalf of the Norwegian Government, the number of deposited seed samples and depositing institutes has steadily increased. With more than a million seed samples now safely deposited in the vault, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the vault now houses samples of 40 percent of the world’s total agricultural seed diversity.

Gene banks from all over the world

As part of the 10-year anniversary celebration planned for February, more than 60 thousand new seed samples from about 20 gene banks will be added to the ever-growing Seed Vault. Their deposit will be accompanied by a modern dance choreographed and performed by the Arctic Theater in Tromsø to interpret the glacial drama the vault inspires.

At the “10 year anniversary seed deposit” hosted by the Norwegian Minister for Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale, seed samples from all part of the world will be brought into the Vault. Gene banks from North- and South-America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia have packed and shipped seeds for the anniversary. Many of the gene banks will also be represented by gene bank managers and/or scientists.

The weather was rough when the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Minister for Agriculture Terje Riis Johansen and many distinguished guests participated in the opening of Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the 26th of February 2006. Photo: NordGen