The Seed Vault Summit calls for action to save crop diversity

Presentations were given by experts in in situ and ex situ conservation and the sustainable use of plant genetic resources. The presentations can be downloaded from this website.

Crucial to future food supplies

An editing committee chaired by Jonathan Drori from the UK’s Eden Project assisted by representatives from the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Crop Trust and NordGen developed a summary of conclusions from the Summit that can be downloaded here. The summary calls upon governments to encourage multiple methods for conservation and sustainable use all the way from farmers’ fields to the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard and back again.

The Summit acknowledged that plant genetic diversity is crucial for food-supply resilience and for the capacity of agriculture to adapt to climate change and natural disaster. This is in line with UN goals from the General Assembly in 2015 on ending hunger, which states that one of the means to achieve this is by maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals, and their wild relatives.

Recommendations to governments

In order to achieve this UN goal, the Summit recommends that governments should prioritize three urgent tasks:

  1. Facilitate improvement of community seed banks and the multiplication of the seeds they contain. This will conserve crop diversity that has been saved by the farming community. It will give local farmers easy and timely access to diverse and locally-adapted seeds. It will also give access to education and training, and possibly to seed-ownership and associated income opportunities.
  2. Address the need to regenerate and maintain seed collections in many gene banks. It is important to maintain, conserve and provide facilitated access to the plant genetic resources in national and geographic gene banks. This will save the cultural heritage of a country or region, and also provide access to vital traits for future agriculture and food production in a changing climate. This activity will also enable the gene banks to send fresh seeds to Svalbard Global Seed Vault for long term safety deposit.
  3. Expand and strengthen the global system for conservation and sustainable use of crop diversity. To complement conventional seed banks, there is a need to develop in situ conservation of crop wild relatives, as well as in vitro and cryopreservation techniques and protocols. The discussion of associated information systems for storing and manipulating digital crop diversity and genomic data (in silico) should continue in Treaty settings, and in discussions surrounding the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault 10 year Anniversary Summit were chaired by Jonathan Drori, previously documentary film maker at BBC and a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, now representing The Eden Project and NordGen director Lise Lykke Steffensen. (Photo: Sara Landqvist)