When the chips are down, Scots tatties will be there

Genetic material from Scottish seed potatoes will be stored at the Global Seed Vault on the Svalbard archipelago. Picture: Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images

Genetic material from Scottish seed potatoes will be stored at the Global Seed Vault on the Svalbard archipelago. Picture: Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images

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Forget frozen chips – genetic material from Scottish seed tatties will soon be heading for some real cold storage in a James Bond-style Arctic hideout.

And the consignment, which was yesterday prepared under the watchful eye of Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, will be the UK’s first deposit of plant genetic material into the Global Seed Vault.

This fail-safe seed storage facility is situated inside a sandstone mountain on the island of Spitsbergen, half-way between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

The Global Seed Vault on the Svalbard archipelago is the world’s largest collection of crop diversity which has been built to stand the test of time and has been designed to protect priceless genetic resources from possible future catastrophic global environmental events.

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And yesterday saw the Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC) – an invaluable repository of potato genetic material held in trust by the James Hutton Institute with support from the Scottish Government – provide the UK’s first consignment to head to the vault.

The CPC was established in the 1930s by British botanists and collectors and is one of seven large potato genetic banks. Its purpose is to safeguard the genetic diversity of the crop and make it available to researchers and breeders.

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Professor Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, said that the efficient conservation and utilisation of resources played a critical role in ensuring food security both now and in the future.

He said the Hutton was honoured to host the CPC and that by consigning its genetic material into the Global Seed Vault, valuable genetic resources would be available “for generations to come”.

“The efforts of early pioneers and subsequent plant scientists in establishing and maintaining the CPC have become even more precious, given that new predictions estimate a global population of 11 billion by 2100, and the importance of potato as a key staple food crop in many regions of the world,” he said.

Cunningham added that protecting these seeds in the vault would ensure the genetic material would be available for future potato breeders.

“This will help maintain both Scotland’s economy and global food security,” she said. “The CPC underlines the global importance of the science undertaken at the James Hutton Institute.”

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