On October 26, 153 seed samples of Latvian origin (varieties developed in Latvia) will be deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located in Norway, thereby strengthening the conservation of traditional plant genetic resources in Latvia. These samples represent plant genetic resources for food and agriculture - cereals, legumes, flax, hemp and also vegetables (a total of 30 species).
This is the first deposit of Latvian seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is the largest and safest global plant seed repository in the world. A further 40 seed samples are being prepared for deposit in 2022, as after harvesting, seeds need to be dried and the germination of the seed material tested. Seed storage in the Svalbard Global Seed vault is financed by the Norwegian government, and is free of charge to depositors.
The secure long-term storage of seeds in Svalbard is crucial in terms of accelerating climate change. Climate change is rapidly altering the world’s environment, and our plants must be able to adapt to these changes, e.g. extreme heat, drought or storms and increased rainfall levels. Possibly, seed samples stored in the Latvian and other gene banks contain genetic diversity that can be used in breeding to create new varieties that are more adapted to future conditions. Genetic resources are the wealth of all mankind, the safe storage of these seeds is crucial for future agriculture and, at the same time, the preservation of cultural and historical values.
Currently, 87 gene banks from 66 countries around the world store their seed samples (more than one million samples in total) in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, where the storage facility has been built into solid rock, in permafrost. Cold temperatures, vacuum packed seeds, and reduced oxygen content in the facility, ensure the long-term preservation of the seed material. The storage facility meets all conditions for long-term and high-quality seed storage.
Seed samples are stored under the so-called “black box” principle - except for Latvian representatives, no one else has the right to open boxes, distribute samples or perform any other activity with the seed samples. If necessary, Latvia may request the return of stored seed samples.
It is planned that the seed samples of varieties originating in Latvia will be ceremonially deposited by the advisor to the Agriculture Minister Egils Helmanis and the head of the Latvian gene bank Dainis Edgars Ruņģis, the Latvian ambassador to Norway Mārtiņš Klīve will also participate in the event. The delegation will also include a number of experts from Latvia who are scheduled to meet with representatives of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen). Further cooperation in the field of gene banking and issues related to the functioning and development of the joint Nordic, Estonian and Latvian Plant Genetic Resource Database (GENBIS) will be discussed. The deposit of Latvian seed samples into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is being done in cooperation with the Office of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Latvia.