Svalbard Global Seed Vault is not a gene bank, it is a facility for maintaining crop diversity in the form of seeds, stored and conserved in a frozen state. The ideal temperature is between minus 10 and minus 20 degrees Celsius. The Seeds in the Seed Vault shall only be accessed when the original seed collections have been lost for any reason. The depositors will retain their rights over the seeds. There will be no way that Svalbard Global Seed Vault, or Norway can give access to the seeds without consent from the depositors. The Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4,5 million different seed samples. Each sample will contain on average 500 seeds, so a maximum of 2,25 billion seeds may be stored in the Seed Vault. The Seed Vault will therefore have the capacity to hold all the unique seed samples that are conserved today by all the approximately 1400 gene banks that are found in more than 100 countries all over the world. The low temperature and the limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and cause a delay in the aging of the seeds. Svalbard is a unique location for such a facility in multiple ways. Svalbard has perfect climate and geology for underground cold storage. Because of the permafrost, the temperature will never rise above minus 3,5 Celsius. The sandstone at Svalbard is stable to build in and low in radiation. Approximately 6,5 million seeds sample are stored in gene banks today. Only about 1-2 million of these are estimated to be distinct. Plant breeders and researchers are the major users of gene banks. The biggest threat comes from lack of resources and funding. Poor management can be a major problem. Gene banks have been subject to natural disasters, war and civil strife. Many gene banks are situated in developing countries and many have been faced with different challenges over time. Extinction is forever. Different varieties of wheat and potato can disappear as permanently as the dinosaurs.
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