A ‘Doomsday Vault’ For The World’s Seeds | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now
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Feb 272008

By John DeFore


Yesterday, somewhere near the top of the world, behind a futuristic portal, an effort commenced to protect Earth’s plants from global catastrophe. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located 1,000 km from the North Pole in Norway, takes an established idea — a “seed bank,” in which samples are warehoused away from where crops are grown as a hedge against natural disasters — and puts it on steroids: Here, plants aren’t simply being protected from a bad drought or a plague of locusts but from catastrophes that might threaten life on a global scale. It’s a vault so sheltered that other seed banks will use it, just in case.

The vault, funded by Norway’s government, can hold over two billion seeds, representing 4.5 million different samples (each plant sample contains hundreds of individual seeds) drawn from the approximately 1,400 gene banks around the world. “When in full use,” organizers say, “the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will represent the world’s largest collection of seeds.” Samples are stored in a deep-freeze at -18 Celsius, slowing the aging process to such an extent that, according to organizers, some species can live up to almost 20,000 years. Should refrigeration machines break down, permafrost surrounding the vault would maintain a temperature of 4 degrees below zero, allowing crews (assuming humans are still around) time to repair them.

“With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization,” Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at the facility’s opening.

Opponents of “Frankenfoods” can take heart: Unless Norway’s laws regarding GMOs are changed or exempted to allow for them, genetically engineered crops can’t even get in the front door of this apocalypse-proof shelter.

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