Have you ever wondered what would happen to our food supply in the event of an asteroid impact or a nuclear war? Well, way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world’s largest secure seed storage, also known as the ‘Doomsday Vault’. Opened by the Norwegian Government in February 2008, it holds crates of seeds from all over the world for safe and secure long-term storage in cold and dry rock vaults. This is to protect crop seeds against the risk of getting destroyed or extinct in case of a global or local catastrophic event.
On October 18, 2016 Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) made its first deposit into the Vault. The seeds represent TLL’s continued efforts in research to develop elite and unique rice varieties that contribute to the long-term security needs of the region. The deposit from Singapore also reinforced TLL’s commitment to ensuring sustainable agriculture by partaking in this process of seed conservation and biodiversity protection.
The handover of seeds ceremony was held in conjunction with President of Singapore Tony Tan’s State Visit to Norway and the handover of seeds ceremony took place at the Natural History Museum’s Botanical Garden in Oslo on October 10, 2016 and was witnessed by Her Majesty The Queen Sonja and Mrs Mary Tan, wife of President Tony Tan.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to store up to 4.5 million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, so that crop diversity can be conserved for generations to come.
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Rice is the most widely cultivated crop in Asia and plays a very important role in the livelihood, history and culture of the people in Asia. There is an increased awareness on how the risk of rice shortage, compounded by environmental challenges as well as demand from population growth, could affect various parts of the value chain, including the livelihoods of farmers whose source of income is dependable on the yield of each harvest. The availability of rice lines, which are naturally bred and imbued with traits to combat bacterial and fungal diseases as well as to overcome environmental challenges, can help enhance global rice supply and impact livelihoods.
Established in 2002, TLL is part of Temasek Foundation Innovates, a Singapore-based non-profit philanthropic organisation that funds and supports programmes focusing on developing practical solutions for a better life through research and innovation. TLL focuses primarily on understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie the development and physiology of plants, fungi and animals. Such research provides new understanding of how organisms function, and also provides foundation for biotechnology innovation. For more information, please visit www.tll.org.sg.
Did you know…
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was considered an ideal place because it lacks tectonic activity and has permafrost, which aids preservation. It is over four feet above sea level, so will keep dry even if the ice caps melt. And if the power fails, it will take weeks before the -0.5° F facility rises to the bedrock temperature of 27° F. Thus the seeds deposited there have the best possible chance of being preserved for hundreds and even thousands of years.