This week, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated its 10th anniversary by accepting a shipment of more than 70,000 seeds from 23 institutions around the globe to its storage facility – bringing the total number of seeds to more than 1 million varieties. The seeds include such staples as rice, wheat and maize, as well as cowpea, sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon pea, eastern European beans, the Estonian onion potato and the Bambara groundnut – a drought-tolerant crop being developed for cultivation in Africa. Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, stated, “Safeguarding such a huge range of seeds means scientists will have the best chance of developing nutritious and climate-resilient crops that can ensure future generations don’t just survive, but thrive.”
“[The anniversary] comes at a time when agriculture is facing multiple challenges from extreme weather and the demands of a world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050,” said Norway’s Minister of Agriculture Jon Georg Dale. “This means it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds – the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture – are safely conserved.”
As part of the celebrations marking the Seed Vault’s anniversary, the Crop Trust, which runs the vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), gave awards to the Global Gatekeepers of crop diversity. “The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are the global gatekeepers of crop diversity, having spent decades committed to their belief in the absolute importance of seed conservation,” said Haga. “They understand – and have helped thousands of others learn about – the deep connection between seeds, our agricultural history, and our future. Without the passion and dedication of these scientists the world would be a far less rich, far less diverse place.”
Award recipients include Daniel Debouck of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Jean Hanson of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ahmed Amri of The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Hari D Upadhyaya of The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Dave Ellis of The International Potato Center (CIP) and Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton of The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The Crop Trust also gave a Legacy Award to Cary Fowler, one of the founders of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the Crop Trust’s former executive director, who oversaw the Vault’s design and construction. Congratulations to these esteemed protectors of the world’s crop biodiversity.
We are also pleased to highlight a piece by our own B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru published in Genetic Literacy Project about African agricultural scientists’ engagement with gene editing and synthetic biology research. The feature offers a sneak peek into what researchers are doing at the National Agriculture Crops Resources Research Institute in Namulonge, Uganda, including the development of disease-free cassava.
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