New Depositor Agreement signed as Thai Gene Banks Visited NordGen

Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Department of Agriculture Siriporn Boonchoo and NordGen CEO Lise Lykke Steffensen signing the depositor agreement facilitating seed deposits from Thailand to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The delegation from Thailand included representatives from both the National Rice Seed Storage Laboratory for Genetic Resources (NRSSL) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA). As they visited NordGen in Alnarp they brought seeds that will be deposited in the Seed Vault on the 21th of August.

– We really appreciate being able to contribute to the world’s future food security, said Siriporn Boonchoo, Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Department of Agriculture, who was the gene bank signing a new depositor agreement at this occasion.

Heavy flooding in the gene bank

Thailand and NRSSL experienced heavy flooding in 2011. – For several weeks we had water inside the gene bank. Only the water pumps saved the seeds from being destroyed. Outside people used boats where we usually drive cars, said Kasem Soontrajarn, Senior Rice Scientist at NRSSL. NRSSL made its first Seed Vault seed deposit in October 2013.

This illustrates the crucial importance of Svalbard Global Seed Vault. As a secure facility for the long-term storage of plant genetic resources important for food and agriculture, the Seed Vault offers a facility for keeping a safety back-up of the seeds stored in gene banks, should the worst happen.

– And things do happen. We have seen a gene bank in Indonesia flooded and the gene bank in Aleppo abandoned due to the conflict in Syria. In Scandinavia we had lots of rain last year and the worst drought ever this year. The genetic resources in gene banks needs to be kept safe as they are the key to our future food supply, said Lise Lykke Steffensen, CEO of NordGen who signed the depositor agreement on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The Thai delegation visiting NordGen for signing depositor agreement and seed deliveries; from the left: Director of DOA Genebank Research and Development Group Ms. Kunyaporn Pipithsangchan, Director General of the Rice Department Mr. Anan Suwannarat, Deputy Director-General of Department of Agriculture Ms. Siriporn Boonchoo, Senior Rice Expert Dr. Somsong Chotechuen, NordGen director Lise Lykke Steffensen, Seed Vault coordinator Åsmund Asdal, Agricultural Research Officer at DOA Ms. Parichart Sangkasa-ad and NRSSL Senior Rice Scientist Mr. Kasem Soontrajarn.

Great trust in the Seed Vault

– We in Thailand have a great trust in the facility of Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It’s situated in a very isolated and safe place ideal for keeping seeds for future generations, Siriporn Boonchoo said.

Today, 76 institutes have deposited seeds in the Seed Vault. By signeing the agreement and delivering seeds to NordGen for security storage in the Seed Vault later this month, Department of Agriculture in Thailand became the 77th institute to deposit seeds in Svalbard. The deposited seed samples from both institutes originate from Thailand.

NordGen, along with its partners The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the organization Crop Trust, encourage more gene banks to make use of this service, which is free of charge.

– Although we already have many depositors who have chosen to deposit seeds in the Seed Vault, we still have room for many more. We need to extend the safety net for our genetic resources, to be able to develop healthy and robust crops in the future as well. It’s a matter of our future food security, said Lise Lykke Steffensen.