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‘Doomsday’ Seed Vault Opens in Arctic

February 27, 2008 03:19 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Norway and an NGO called the Global Diversity Crop Trust have opened a global seed bank, built to ensure the planet’s crop diversity.

30-Second Summary

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The bank lies deep inside an Arctic mountain in the Norway-controlled archipelago of Svalbard, secure from the potential threats of both people and nature.

Nicknamed the “doomsday vault,” the repository is currently home to seeds from 250,000 crop varieties—many of which come from staple grains such as wheat and barley.

According to Cary Fowler, the executive director of the GDCT, agricultural diversity is a crucial part of protecting the planet’s food supply.

“We need [it] to help farmers and to help agriculture adapt to climate change, pests and diseases, droughts, and whatever demands we're going to have to make of agriculture,” Fowler told British newspaper The Guardian.

In addition, Robin Probert of Britain’s Millennium Seed Bank points out that “one in six of all wild plants are used for medicine. One in 10 of all wild plants are used for sources of food particularly in developing countries ... The least we can do is get them stored in a seed bank.”

Although there are currently around 1,500 seed banks around the world, the one in Svalbard is unprecedented in terms of its security and technology. The vault is buried 400 feet inside a mountain, affording its contents protection from disasters natural and otherwise.

Seed banks elsewhere have proven vulnerable to such dangers. In 2006, Typhoon Melenyo destroyed most of the collection of a Filipino seed research project, and a similar facility outside Baghdad was plundered in 2003 after the start of the Iraq War.

Headline Link: ‘Svalbard’s Giant Cold Store’

Background: Seed banks

Historical Context: Disaster hits other seed banks

Iraq
Afghanistan
The Philippines

Opinion & Analysis: A ‘Noah’s Ark’ for the plant world

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