View Full Version : Work begins on Arctic seed vault

Jun 19th, 2006, 08:17 PM

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Work begins on Arctic seed vault

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/41785000/jpg/_41785514_svalbard_gcdta_203.jpg The Arctic seed vault will be built into mountain rock

Norway is starting construction on a "doomsday vault" in the Arctic which is designed to house all known varieties of the world's crops.
Dug into a frozen mountainside on the island of Svalbard, it is hoped the project will safeguard crop diversity in the event of a global catastrophe.
More than 100 countries have backed the vault, which will store seeds, packaged in foil, at sub-zero temperatures.
Prime Ministers from five nations helped lay the cornerstone on Monday.
Premiers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland attended the ceremony near the town of Longyearbyen, in Norway's remote Svalbard Islands, roughly 1,000 km (620 miles) from the North Pole.
Secure facility
Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB: "The vault is of international importance. It will be the only one of its kind; all the other gene banks are of a commercial nature."
Fenced in and guarded, with steel airlock doors, motion detectors and polar bears roaming outside - the concrete facility will, its backers say, be the most secure building of its type in the world.
Norway's Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen has called the vault a "Noah's Ark on Svalbard."
The vault's purpose is to ensure survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change; and to offer the world a chance to restart growth of food crops that may have been wiped out.
At temperatures of minus 18C (minus 0.4F), the seeds could last hundreds, even thousands, of years. Even if all cooling systems failed, explained Mr Riis-Johansen, the temperature in the frozen mountain would never rise above freezing due to the permafrost on the mountainside.
Ultimate back-up
The Global Crop Diversity Trust, founded in 2004, will help run the vault, which is planned to open and start accepting seeds from around the world in September 2007. The bank is eventually expected to house some three million seeds.
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/41785000/jpg/_41785510_svalbard_gcdt_203.jpg This is polar bear country

"This facility will provide a practical means to re-establish crops obliterated by major disasters," Cary Fowler, executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, said in a statement.
Fowler, who led a feasibility study on the project, said crop diversity was also threatened by "accidents, mismanagement, and short-sighted budget cuts".
Already, some 1,400 seed banks around the world, most of them national, hold samples of a country's crops. But these banks "can be affected by shutdowns, natural disasters, war or simply a lack of money," said Mr Riis-Johansen. While Norway will own the vault itself, countries sending seeds will own the material they deposit - much as with a bank safe-deposit box. The Global Crop Diversity Trust will help developing countries pay the cost of preparing and sending seeds.

Jun 19th, 2006, 09:15 PM
I find that story rather scary, but I also think it is extremely sensible. It reassures me that occasionally, lots of people CAN get together and do something good.
Thankyou for posting it !

Jane M
Jun 19th, 2006, 09:20 PM
It does give me a queasy kinda feeling....like some governments are really taking the global warming thing very seriously and making preparations. Wow, how do I react to that???? It is a good thing, no doubt in my mind of that.

Jun 20th, 2006, 07:06 AM
Deep in permafrost - a seed bank to save the world

Project aims to protect global food supplies
Three million samples to be housed in giant vault

Alok Jha, science correspondent
Tuesday June 20, 2006
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)

A bee on apple blossom. Photograph: Garry Weaser

An ambitious project to safeguard future food supplies began yesterday with the launch of a "Noah's ark" for the world's most important plants.
The new Svalbard International Seed Vault will serve as a repository for crucial seeds in the event of a global catastrophe, said Norway's agriculture minister, Terje Riis-Johansen.
Carved into the permafrost and rock of the remote Svalbard peninsula, it will eventually house 3m seed samples from every country in the world.
"This facility will provide a practical means to re-establish crops obliterated by major disasters," said Cary Fowler, the executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which will manage the seed bank. "But crop diversity is imperiled not just by a cataclysmic event, such as a nuclear war, but also by natural disasters, accidents, mismanagement, and short-sighted budget cuts."
Agriculture relies on collections of crop species and their wild relatives. Seed banks are vital to the development of new crop varieties and, without them, agriculture would grind to a halt. Samples of the world's agricultural biodiversity, including crops such as wheat, apple and potato, are scattered across 1,400 seed banks around the world.
All these seed banks are at risk from local problems. Mr Fowler cited the example of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as times when dozens of unique crops had been wiped out. At the same time, those countries' own seed banks had been destroyed, meaning the genes were lost for ever. "You can use the word extinction in this case," he said. "This would no longer occur once the [Svalbard] seed bank opened."
The Norwegian government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust have worked on the idea of building a global seed bank of last resort in the Arctic ice since 2004.
On Monday, the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland launched the 30m kroner (2.6m) project at a ceremony near the town of Longyearbyen, in Norway's remote Svalbard Islands, roughly 620 miles from the north pole.
The new seed bank will store its samples in a reinforced concrete tunnel drilled 70 metres (230ft) into a mountain, guarded by two steel doors and remote-controlled from Sweden. The seeds will be stored in foil packets at -18C, and are expected to remain viable for thousands of years. If a crop is lost through natural disaster or war and a seed bank is destroyed, a government could request replacement seeds from the vault, Mr Fowler said. Unlike the hundreds of existing seed banks, the vault will not rely solely on artificial refrigeration systems. The facility's remote location and permafrost will ensure that, even if the power fails, the temperature will never rise above freezing. Though the facility will be fenced in, Svalbard's fierce polar bears, could also act as natural guardians.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost. The US had 7,100 varieties of apple in the 19th century, 6,800 no longer exist. The seed bank will start accepting samples in 2007. The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said it would be of global importance. "It will be the only one of its kind. It is our final safety net."