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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault receives a fourth seed deposit from SSE

Fri, May 20th, 2011
Posted in Business Announcements

Decorah, Iowa - Seed Savers Exchange, Inc., a leading non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, has announced that a fourth deposit of 271 heirloom seed varieties has been made into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

President and Executive Director John Torgrimson confirmed that Seed Savers Exchange has sent a total of 1,660 open pollinated varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault since it opened in February 2008.

While Seed Savers' share represents only a small portion of the more than 600,000 total deposits at Svalbard, the organization's contribution is unique because the heirloom varieties are mostly seeds conserved by amateur home gardeners. Here is a small sampling of the 2011 deposit: Lettuce 424, "Virkler," an heirloom dating to the mid 19th century, originally from the Alsace Lorraine region of France; Tomato 2402, "Antique Roman," reported to be an old Italian paste tomato, unique because of its polymorphic fruit, donated to SSE by John Swenson; and Squash 3039, "Yokohama," introduced in the United States around the 1860's.

Seed Savers Exchange maintains its collection of thousands of heirloom and open pollinated varieties at its Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa, and in addition to Svalbard, has backup storage at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation at the USDA in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Torgrimson emphasized that the deposits made by SSE at Ft. Collins, as well as at Svalbard, remain the property of Seed Savers Exchange and cannot be distributed to third parties.

"It is reassuring to know that all of these varieties are being backed up for safekeeping," Torgrimson says. "Seed banks are one of the great ways to safeguard seeds; the other is through participatory preservation, where gardeners grow and save their own seeds." Members of the Seed Savers Exchange can gain access to the same seeds deposited in Svalbard through the annual 500-page Yearbook that is distributed to SSE's 13,000 members. The 2011 Yearbook- listing 13,876 unique varieties- serves as a networking tool linking members in sharing varieties with one another. Over the past 36 years, members have shared hundreds of thousands of varieties.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault functions like the ultimate safety deposit box for biodiversity and global food supply preservation, storing duplicate collections of seeds on behalf of gene banks from around the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault offers protection against permanent loss due to natural disasters, wars, equipment failures, accidents, and loss of funding that can plague even the best gene banks. As a service to the world community, the Government of Norway paid for completing the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's construction. The Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Government of Norway are financing its operating costs. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is managed by the Nordic Gene Bank (NordGen) under a tripartite agreement between the Government of Norway, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and NordGen. Storage of seed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is free of charge.

Located 78 degrees north, far above mainland Norway, three vault rooms have been carved inside a mountain, down a 125-yard tunnel chiseled out of solid stone. Naturally cold, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is further cooled to below -2 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, seeds can be stored safely for decades-even if the earth warms or power goes out. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million different seed samples (each sample containing about 500 seeds) potentially from 1,700 gene banks in more than 100 countries. The Seed Vault houses and secures the world's largest collection of seed varieties, including many no longer grown by farmers or gardeners.

Seed Savers Exchange's mission is to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving, and sharing heirloom seeds, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.

For more information on the work of the Seed Savers Exchange, please visit:

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