Traits and Genetics
Potato seeds deposited in Arctic vault for future generations
By Potatoes in Canada
Sept. 1, 2015, Svalbard, Norway – The head of the United Nations agriculture agency, together with scientists and delegations from Peru, Costa Rica and Norway, recently witnessed a ceremony during which potato seeds were deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
By Potatoes in Canada
The vault is located in the Arctic Circle and currently holds more than 860,000 food crop seeds from all over the world. On Aug. 27, a total of 750 potato seeds, as well as seeds from other wild potato relatives, were deposited in the vault.
The potato originated in the Andes of South America and is now the world’s third-most consumed food. The potato feeds more than one billion people every day, and is low in fat with high protein, calcium and vitamin C. However, climate change, agricultural modernization, land-use changes, and diseases such as potato blight pose a critical challenge to this precious natural resource.
“In a few decades, our planet’s food systems will need to feed an additional two billion people,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “Producing more and more nutritious food will be made all the more challenging as a result of climate change.”
“Agricultural biodiversity – like that locked inside the potato seeds being deposited here today – is essential to facing these challenges, by helping us develop better, more resilient crops,” da Silva added.
The potato seed deposits were made possible through benefit-sharing projects supported by FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. It aims to ensure farmers and researchers have access to a large, diverse pool of seeds and other plant genetic material – as well as a fair share of the benefits resulting from any new varieties.
Through the treaty, Andean farmers learned how to pollinate their potatoes and collect seeds for storage. Some of those seeds were deposited in Svalbard.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is co-funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the government of Norway.