19 March 2020
SDG Advocates Hold Seed Summit Linking Food Security with Seed Diversity
Photo Credit: Alex Hudson on Unsplash
story highlights

Emphasizing the interrelated nature of the SDGs, the Seed Summit issued a Call to Action that urges governments to step up efforts to maintain genetic diversity, “including through soundly managed seed and plant banks".

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault contains the world’s largest global backup collection of seed samples from food and forage crops, representing over 6,000 plant species.

The UN Secretary-General will host the 2021 Summit on Food Systems, which will seek to catalyze large-scale public mobilization and actionable commitments to make food systems sustainable, climate adapted and resilient.

The co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General’s Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana – held a “Seed Summit” and marked the deposit of additional stock into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. The Summit explored how to attain SDG target 2.5, which calls on the international community to maintain the genetic diversity of both crops and livestock by 2020, and promote access and benefit sharing. 

The Summit highlighted concerns that following decades of steady improvements to food security, the number of people living with hunger began to increase in 2015. More than 820 million people are currently undernourished, according to the 2019 UN report ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.’ The Summit underscored the role of genetic diversity in transforming food systems and sustainable agriculture, while also strengthening the resilience of ecosystems, reducing the vulnerability of rural populations to climate impacts, and contributing to climate change mitigation.

Emphasizing the interrelated nature of the SDGs, the Seed Summit issued a Call to Action that urges governments to step up efforts to maintain genetic diversity, “including through soundly managed seed and plant banks,” and encourages gene banks to make use of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as part of their strategy for securing important seed collections.

The Call to Action also highlights the importance of prioritizing the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity in agricultural policies, and ensuring equitable sharing of benefits arising from these resources. It further notes the need for governments, researchers, the private sector, and civil society to step up their efforts to promote climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction in both agriculture and aquaculture, with a view to ensuring that small-scale food producers can maintain and increase their food production in a changing climate.

The UN Secretary-General will host the 2021 Summit on Food Systems, which will seek to catalyze large-scale public mobilization and actionable commitments to make food systems sustainable, climate adapted, and resilient. 

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is “the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply.”

During the ceremony, Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, described the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as “the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply.” It contains the world’s largest global backup collection of seed samples from food and forage crops, representing over 6,000 plant species. The vault was established in 2008, four years after the entry into force of the Treaty, which put in place a legal framework ensuring that seeds in the vault remain the sovereign property of the depositors who seal the containers upon deposit, and are the only ones permitted to access them again.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is equipped to store up to 4.5 million seeds samples, and is designed to preserve the seeds, keeping them viable for regeneration for decades, or even centuries to come. The latest deposits by 35 gene banks from around the world brought the total number of seed samples stored to over 1.1 million. Among first-time depositors at the Seed Vault event were the Cherokee Nation (USA), the University of Haifa (Israel), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Morocco), the Julius Kühn Institute (Germany), the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, the Baekdudaegan National Arboretum (South Korea), Suceava Genebank ‘Mihai Cristea’ (Romania), and Kew Gardens (UK).

The Seed Vault is managed by a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, NordGen and the Crop Trust. [FAO Press Release] [UN-SDG Advocates Call to Action]


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