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Apr 21, 2011

Biotech Critics Concerned By Biotech Corporations' Access to Svalbard Global Seed Vault

On 21 April 2011, Capital Press reported that biotech critics are concerned that biotech corporations will access and "exploit" the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV).

Known as the "Doomsday" seedbank, SGSV was built on an Arctic island in Norway in 2008.  Its mission is to stockpile seeds so that they can be used in cases of natural disasters and manmade cataclysms.  Outreach has been made to "remote corners of the globe" to secure seeds.

Biotech critic Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety has complained that the SGSV is creating a "one-stop shopping for the [biotech agribusiness] corporations."  He criticizes that SGSV is "akin to creating a zoo for endangered species rather than trying to protect them in the wild."  Fundamental to his argument is that small seed banks have become subject to the terms and conditions of the international treaty on plant genetics and this grants access to agribusiness firms who can use the genes from the seeds for their biotech crops. 

Specifically, Kimbrell dislikes the million-dollar donations that Dupont and Syngenta have donate to Global Crop Diversity Trust, the organization that manages the SGSV.  He also dislikes the seed deposit agreement, which is "confusing from the perspective of a small seed bank."

Cary Fowler, executive director of Global Crop Diversity Trust dismisses Kimbrell's allegations as "far-fetched, but it would also be financially pointless.  Donations such as the ones made by Dupont and Syngenta make up less than 2 percent of the trust's funding and have no strings attached."  Most of the seeds stored at SGSV are also available through other public collections. 

Fowler notes that SGSV gives priority to the seed collections covered by the international treaty on plant genetics (CGIAR) but this is not a prerequisite.  Also, there are 650,000 samples deposits and not all of these are available for sample requests.

For more see: Perkowski, Mateusz. "Biotech debate stretches to roof of world," Capital Press, 21 April 2011.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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