Norway’s agriculture minister, Jon Georg Dale, had to cancel a trip to Svalbard with a delegation from Myanmar this week because of the “uncertain situation” on the Arctic archipelago. The delegation had planned to place seeds from threatened orchid plants inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Those plans were disrupted by the avalanche that rammed homes in Svalbard’s largest community, Longyearbyen, and the danger of more avalanches. Dale instead took receipt of the package of seed samples from 230 threatened orchids, handed over by Myanmar’s minister for the environment, Ohn Winn.
Dale will make sure the seeds are delivered to the seed vault, where they can be stored away for the future. The trip and delivery of the seeds was made possible by King Harald and Queen Sonja, who visited Myanmar in December 2014 and gave the country, as a gift, the possibility to use the seed vault for long-term storage of any threatened plants.
“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is especially important to take care of the world’s food security, by providing a safe place for seeds from plants,” Dale said. “This is the first time we’re storing orchid seeds, which can contribute to taking care of biological diversity.”
The seed vault, which opened several years ago on the remote Arctic island, has capacity for 4.5 million types of seeds, and already stores seeds from all over the world in its safe, cold and dry halls inside a mountain. The goal is also to preserve genetic variation within the world’s plants.