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Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Longyearbyen

Svalbard Global Grain Storage is a reliable seed bank on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. Conservationist Cary Fowler, in collaboration with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has opened the Vault to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicates or "reserve" copies of seeds stored in gene banks around the world. The Seed Vault is an attempt to insure against seed loss in other gene banks during large-scale regional or global crises. The Seed Vault is managed according to the terms and conditions set out in a tripartite agreement between the Government of Norway, Crop Trust and the Nordic Centre for Genetic Resources (NordGen).

The Norwegian government has fully funded the construction of the storage facility at approximately EEK 45 million ($8.8 million in 2008). Seed storage is free for end users; Norway and Crop Trust pay the operating costs. The Trust's core funding comes from organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and from various governments around the world.

Since 1984, the Scandinavian Gene Bank has kept a backup copy of the germplasm of northern plants by means of frozen seeds in an abandoned coal mine on Svalbard. In January 2008, the Scandinavian Gene Bank merged with two other northern conservation organizations to form NordGen. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened on February 26, 2008, although the first seeds were delivered in January 2008. Five percent of the seeds in the storage, about 18,000 samples of 500 seeds each, came from the Netherlands Genetic Resources Center (CGN), part of the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands.

As part of the first anniversary of the Vault, more than 90,000 samples of food crop seeds were placed in the Vault, bringing the total number of seed samples to 400,000. The new seeds included 32 potato varieties from Ireland's national gene banks and 20,000 new samples from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service. Other seed samples were obtained from Canada and Switzerland, as well as from international seed researchers from Colombia, Mexico and Syria. This batch of 4 tons (3.9 long tons; 4.4 short tons) increased the total amount of seeds stored in the storage to more than 20 million. As of this anniversary, the Vault held samples of about one-third of the world's most important food crop varieties. Also as part of the anniversary, food production and climate change experts gathered for a three-day conference in Longjiirbien.

Japanese sculptor Mitsuaki Tanabe (田 辺 光 彰) presented a work entitled "Seed 2009 / Momi In-situ Conservation". In 2010, a delegation of seven U.S. congressmen handed over several different varieties of chili peppers.

By 2013, approximately one third of the generic diversity stored in gene banks worldwide was represented in the Seed Vault.

In October 2016, the seed store was subjected to an unusually high degree of water penetration due to temperatures above average and heavy rains. Although during the warm spring months, some water usually seeps into the 100-meter entrance tunnel to the storage facility, in this case the water penetrated the tunnel for 15 meters (49 feet) before freezing.  The storage facility was designed for water infiltration, so the seeds were not at risk. As a result, the Norwegian public works agency Statsbygg plans to improve the tunnel to prevent any similar invasion in the future, including waterproofing the tunnel walls, removing heat sources from the tunnel and digging external drainage ditches.

By the 10th anniversary of the Seed Vault on February 26, 2018, a batch of 70,000 samples was delivered to the facility, resulting in the number of samples received exceeded one million (not including seizures). At that time, the total number of samples stored in the vault was 967,216, representing over 13,000 years of agricultural history.

In 2018, the maintenance of the seed vault was estimated at approximately EEK 2.7 million (USD 310,000). 


Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland "s Prime Minister - Minister ceremonially laid the" first stone "June 19, 2006.

Sidbank is 120 meters (390 feet) inside the mountain sandstone on Spitsbergen Island and uses reliable security systems. The seeds are packed in special three-layer foil bags and sealed with a thermal seal to prevent moisture from entering. The facility is managed by the Nordic Gene Resources Center, although there are no permanent staff on site.

Svalbard was considered ideal because it had no tectonic activity and permafrost, which contributes to preservation. An altitude of 130 meters (430 feet) will keep the place dry, even if the ice caps melt. Local coal serves as a source of energy for cooling units that additionally cool the seeds to an internationally recommended standard of -18 ° C (-0.4 ° F). If the equipment fails, it will take at least a few weeks before the temperature at the site will rise to an ambient sandstone temperature of -3 ° C (27 ° F) and is estimated to take two centuries to heat to 0 ° C (32 ° F).

The feasibility study conducted prior to construction showed that the storage facility could preserve seeds of most major food crops for hundreds of years. Some of them, including important grains, have the potential to remain viable for thousands of years.

Along the entire length of the roof of the building and down the facade to the entrance there is a lighted work of Norwegian artist Diveke Sanne called Perpetual Repercussion, which marks the location of the storage at a distance. In Norway, state-funded construction projects that cost more than a certain amount must include works of art. KORO, the Norwegian state agency for the supervision of art in public places, invited the artist to offer a work of art for Seed Vault. The roof and entrance to the vault are filled with highly reflective stainless steel, mirrors and prisms. The installation reflects the polar light in the summer months, and in winter the network of 200 fiber optic cables gives the product a muted greenish turquoise and white light.


The mission of Svalbard Global Seed Vault is to provide protection against accidental loss of diversity in traditional gene banks. While the popular press has emphasized its possible usefulness in the event of a major regional or global disaster, it will be approached more frequently when gene banks lose samples due to mismanagement, accidents, equipment failures, reduced funding and natural disasters. These events occur with some regularity. War and civil unrest have destroyed some genebanks. The Philippines' national seed bank was damaged by the flood and then destroyed by a fire; seed banks in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq were completely lost. According to The Economist. "The Svalbard Warehouse is a backup copy of 1,750 seed banks in the world, a repository of agricultural biodiversity. Norwegian law prohibits the storage of genetically modified seeds in the vault.

Neighboring Arctic World Archive provides similar services for data that are engraved on film reels as a code. Project Manager Pickle from Norway says that if properly stored, the film should last 1000 years.

Access to seeds

The samples of the Sanctuary seeds are copies of the samples stored in the deposited genebanks. Researchers, breeders and other groups wishing to access seed samples cannot do so through the seed vault; instead, they must request samples from the gene banks. Samples stored in gene banks will in most cases be available under the terms and conditions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by 118 countries or parties.

Seed Storage works as a deposit box in a bank. The bank owns the building, while the depositor owns the contents of his or her box. The Norwegian government owns the facility, and the depository gene banks own the seeds that they send. Storing samples on Svalbard is not a legal transfer of genetic resources. In the terminology of gene banks, this is called a black box scheme. Each depositor signs a deposit agreement with NordGen, acting on behalf of Norway . The agreement clearly states that Norway does not claim ownership of the deposited samples and that ownership remains with the depositor, who has exclusive access to the materials in the seed vault. No one shall have access to other people's seeds from the Seed Vault. The database of samples and depositors is maintained by NordGen.

The Syrian Civil War prompted another Semia Bank, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARD), to move its headquarters - an apartment from Alei to Beirut. Due to ICARDA's difficulties in handing over its collection, the Svalbard Warehouse authorized the first ever seizure of seeds in 2015. Second, more, the conclusion was made by ICARDA in September 2017. Ikarda also continues to make repeated samples of seeds throughout this time, including the return of varieties it was withdrawn and grown in 2015. As of March 2018, these are the only withdrawals from the Svalbard vault so far.