Svalbard Seed Vault Accepts 50,000 New Samples, Just In Case Doomsday Arrives


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Welcome to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. CropTrust/Svalbard Global Seed Vault 

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies on a remote ice-cold island between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Looking like the lair of a Bond villain, it acts as a safety deposit box for the world’s seeds should something catastrophic happen to planet Earth and its food supplies.

Well, not to be dramatic, but the Doomsday Clock has recently crept 30 seconds closer to midnight, as the world deals with geopolitical turmoil, economic uncertainty, and potential environmental mayhem.


Fortunately for us, the bank has just accepted nearly 50,000 more seeds samples from across the globe. Over the next week, the bank will receive numerous varieties of potato, sorghum, rice, barley, chickpea, lentil, and wheat seed samples. The samples came from collections in the US, the UK, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Morocco. 

These new stocks will join the Svalbard facility's 880,000 other seed samples, which range from African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, and wheat, to European and South American varieties of vegetables.

The entrance to the bank, which burrows 145.9 meters (478.7 feet) into surrounding rock. Crop Trust/Svalbard Global Seed Vault 

“Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong,” Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, said in a statement.


This week also spells a victory for the bank. When war struck Aleppo in 2015, the International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas in Syria requested seeds from Svalbard so it could continue its breeding programs in a less war-ravaged location. After successful projects in Morocco and Lebanon, the seeds were returned to Svalbard on Wednesday, February 22.

Built and administered by the Norwegian government but also heavily funded by the Crop Trust, the bank acts as a genetic reserve for many species of seed-bearing plant. The choice of location is simple. Firstly, it’s nicely isolated from the perils of human activity while remaining well connected with study infrastructure. Its cold climate is also ideal for the seeds, which are stored at -18°C (-0.4°F). 

On top of that, the place looks absolutely incredible. Take a peek inside in these photos here.

All images courtesy of CropTrust/Svalbard Global Seed Vault 


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