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News about Norway’s plans to establish a ‘doomsday vault’ for seeds in the permafrost of the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard as a back-up for conventional gene banks reached the world press in 2006. The idea of a Global Seed Vault, which today is considered a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for seeds, was previously regarded with suspicion and considered to be unrealistic. In 1989 the Norwegian government offered to construct an international depository for seeds in permafrost, but the initiative was sidelined in the agitated debates between developed and developing countries over access to and control of plant genetic resources. The realisation of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2004) resolved some of the most difficult issues and made possible the launching of a new Norwegian initiative to safeguard some of the world’s most important plant genetic resources for the future.

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