Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Global Seed Vault : well worth its cost

Situated on a remote island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, the Global Seed Vault sits at the end of a 120-meter tunnel cut into rock with a natural temperature of -6°C, into Arctic permafrost.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will protect unique varieties of food staples such as eggplant, lettuce, barley, potato, maize, rice, wheat, cowpea and sorghum.

It is able to withstand wars, pestilence and attack by missiles, not to mention rising tides and other by-products of global warming.

Every nation has been invited by the Norwegian government (who financed the project) to place its seeds in this vault. It's the last line of defence against extinction for all the crops we have, and the most long-lasting, most futuristic and most positive contribution to humanity being made by the international community today.

Each country's seeds will be stored inside heat-sealed, four-ply aluminium envelopes originally designed for use by the military, placed inside sealed boxes, stored on metal shelving and secured inside an air-locked chamber. Each packet will hold one representative crop sample, and about 500 seeds depending on their size. They will remain the property of the country that donated them.

1 - Entrance
2 - steel reinforced tunnel
3 - offices
4 - grain vaults

Steel-reinforced doors, multiple-locked chambers and a video-monitoring system supervised from Sweden – plus, presumably, the polar bears – will further protect the vault. Even in the event of equipment failure, the mountain’s permafrost will ensure temperatures inside the vault never rise above -3.5C – perfectly adequate for seed conservation for some years.

Other crops are on the danger list as being susceptible to disease. 'The ones that have the biggest challenges are bananas, wheat and potatoes. Potatoes are perennially on the list.'