If you were one of the most wealthy countries in the world and you were managing one of the biggest sovereign funds of our planet, would you consider creating the biggest seedbank ever to provide insurance against the loss of seeds in a global crises or after a continuous genetic modification of our seeds?
Norway did. With a cost of US$9 million they have built the largest seedbank of the world, in a northern island of the Greenland Sea, that is managed in colaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
The seed samples stored in the seed vault are copies of samples stored in the depositing genebanks. Researchers, plant breeders and other groups wishing to access seed samples cannot do so through the seed vault; instead they must request samples from the depositing genebanks. The samples stored in the genebanks will, in most cases, be accessible in accordance with the terms and conditions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by 118 countries/parties.
The seed vault functions like a safe deposit box in a bank. The bank owns the building and the depositor owns the contents of his or her box. The Government of Norway owns the facility and the depositing genebanks own the seeds they send. The deposit of samples in Svalbard does not constitute a legal transfer of genetic resources. In genebank terminology this is called a «black box» arrangement. Each depositor signs a Deposit Agreement with NordGen, acting on behalf of Norway. The Agreement makes clear that Norway does not claim ownership over the deposited samples and that ownership remains with the depositor, who has the sole right of access to those materials in the seed vault. No one has access to anyone else’s seeds from the seed vault. The database of samples and depositors is maintained by NordGen.
The value of those seeds cannot be determined by money. What is the cost of biodiversity? What is the cost of life in Mother Earth? A seed bank is an invaluable asset that each community should have for the future, for the next generations, for securing our lives against GMO, global crises, Government regulations agains seed storing… a seed bank means freedom and life.