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by Luigi Guarino on August 2, 2017

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Cherfas August 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm

I rather think 94% is the new 93% rather than the new 75%.


Dave Wood August 7, 2017 at 8:44 am

The first Svalbard link. I don’t know why they do this, always. The link reports: “933,000 samples of different, unique crop varieties” in the vault. It is impossible to know how many varieties are included. Don’t go on making this unprofessional mistake: ask the sorghum, maize and bean (and whatever else) experts what they think.


Cary August 7, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Depositors specifically commit in a formal agreement that to the best of their knowledge, they are depositing “samples of plant genetic resources that have not yet been deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.” To the best of their knowledge, they are saying there are 933k unique samples. So the quibble about numbers and professionalism might better be taken up with the depositors themselves. NordGen maintains an on-line database providing information about each of the 933k samples. Depositors check this. Granted, information systems are incomplete. No one can conclusively “prove” how many unique samples there are. We all know what that level of precision would take, and it’s impossible or at least highly impractical. So in this respect, 933k can’t be proven, nor can it be disproven. I suppose we could say that we are reasonably sure that there are 5,499 unique samples, because that’s how many different species are represented according to the database. Or perhaps even more sure of 992, the number of genera recorded. Would it be more “professional” simply to use one of those figures as the number of different unique crop varieties in the Seed Vault?


Mike Jackson August 11, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Why all the concern? I agree with Dave that to continue to make statements about the number of varieties, etc. or the implied genetic diversity doesn’t make sense, or is ‘unprofessional’ in his terminology. By the same token, what Cary proposes does not take into account the ‘real’ number of varieties. And if the operators of Svalbard ‘insist’ on genebanks only depositing germplasm that’s not already there, that’s an unrealistic – and somewhat nonsensical aspiration. Who really knows what the status of individual collections really is in terms of varieties and genetic diversity – or the level of duplication with other collections. Let’s get over it. It seems to me that bandying stats such as number of varieties only serves to ‘elevate’ the status of the genebank, in this case, the SGSV. So why not just accept that the SGSV plays one of the most important roles of backing up national and international collections – almost a unique role for a genebank in the way that SGSV does it – regardless of duplications and the status of a collection vis-a-vis any other. The politics of genetic conservation have surely resulted in a situation where a rational management of germplasm between genebanks is no longer possible (if it ever was, but certainly not post 1992).


Cary August 11, 2017 at 9:01 pm

I think you misinterpreted the point I was trying to make about numbers, Mike. I’ll just leave it at that unless you want to pick up the conversation “off-line” which I would be happy to do.

Changing subjects, I will say, however, that the management plan for the Seed Vault that calls for deposits to be restricted to materials that are not already there is not non-sensical at all. Were the Vault to be open to all samples without restriction the Current Number of possible samples for deposit would be 7+ million instead of 1-2 million. Moreover, that number would grow. And that in turn would substantially add to future contractually-enforceable calls for return of materials to individual genebanks. This would mean that the partners who operate and fund the Seed Vault would have little control over the budget required to store and return materials, up to 7 fold the current situation. That has practical and budgetary implications. The current management plan may not be perfect, but it was consciously designed to be financially sustainable. To the extent possible, avoiding storage of multiple copies of the same sample in the Seed Vault is to me the only sensible and realistic thing to do unless you have a budget and staffing plan that allows for something quite different. By the way, I could check on this, but I suspect that if the Current depositors to the Seed Vault duplicated everything they had there – not to mention any new depositors coming on board – we’d already have to build an additional seed vault to accommodate this. These are some of the reasons why I think the current policy makes good management sense.


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