Bent Skovmand, The Nordic Genebank, P.O. Box 41, S-230-53 Alnarp, SE-230 53, Sweden and Geoff Hawtin, Manor Farm House, 17 Front Street, Portesham DT3 4ET, United Kingdom.
The Svalbard International Seed Depository facility is planned to provide a safety net for the international conservation system of seeds stored in ex situ collections around the world. The facility will be owned by the Norwegian Government and located in Svalbard, Norway; it will function as a safety storage depository for orthodox seeds of plants that are important to food and agriculture. It has been agreed that the operations of the facility will be done by the Nordic Gene Bank, who has maintained a seed safety depository at Svalbard in a coal mine since 1984. The Svalbard facility is meant to ensure that the maximum amount of genetic diversity important to humanity is preserved in a secured place for the long-term and will be based on the latest scientific knowledge and techniques. The Svalbard facility aims to provide optimal conditions for long-term storage under temperatures of -10 to -20°C, achieved through the use of supplementary artificial cooling. It will, however, be constructed in an area with permafrost conditions to ensure that the facility can continue to provide effective storage even without electrical energy supply. The facility will be constructed to last for several centuries with minimal or no maintenance. Seed will be stored under “black box” arrangements under the ownership of the depositors, while the facility itself will be owned by the Government of Norway. Rights and obligations of owner of the facility, manager of the facility and depositor will be elaborated and formalised, taking into account relevant elements such as: 1) Contents of a sMTA for material to be stored, 2) formal relationship between the facility and relevant international organisations and agreements (like the ITPGRFA), 3) obligations and rights of depositors, and 4) liability issues. It is planned that the facility should be opened in 2007.