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Third birthday for Arctic stronghold of biodiversity celebrated with very cautious optimism

By Colin Ricketts - 28 Feb 2011 8:2:2 GMT
Third birthday for Arctic stronghold of biodiversity celebrated with very cautious optimism

The third anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) saw yet more seeds arriving at the Arctic stronghold of biodiversity while an important Egyptian collection was looted during the recent revolution and farmers in Australia report almost impossible conditions for agriculture.

Among the new arrivals is a Peruvian desert lima bean saved from extinction and sent among 3,600 varieties from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture which collected the seeds from 94 countries.

SGSV holds more than 600,000 seed varieties in the safety of an Arctic mountain in Norway.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a regular contributor to the collection and has donated soybeans dating back to 1920s field trips to China. The most recent USDA shipment included wild tomato varieties which have recently been used to breed varieties with better nutritional content.

The University of Arizona sent their deposit on the way with the blessings of a Navajo ceremony.

''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.''

The recent political unrest in Egypt included an attack on the Egyptian Desert Gene Bank. In Russia, Europe's most important collection of berries and fruits faces going under the developer's bulldozer

Dr Tony Gregson, who farms in Australia, arrived with his country's first deposit to the vault and bad news about extreme weather.

He said: ''Australian farmers have recently had to deal with both droughts and floods. This is not only terribly difficult for farming communities, but also affects food prices worldwide—harsh reminders of the need to find crop varieties that will help adapt to these changing conditions.''

Image Credit Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Mari Tefre