Thursday, March 6, 2008

Svalbard Seed Vault

Ok, so have you heard about this? The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an organization devoted to fighting hunger and it is its mission to "ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide."

To this end, the idea for a sort of ark for seeds was conceptualized back in the 1980's. However, due to various squabbles and disagreements about the best methods for seed preservation, etc, the GCDT was only able to move forward once the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources went into effect.
Here's the idea: when disaster strikes (whether natural in the form of droughts, etc, or manmade in the form of war, civil unrest, or mismanagement) and unique varieties of the world's most important crops may be lost. The purpose of the seed vault is to ensure that specimens of as many seeds as possible are preserved for a day when they might be needed, and it can actually hold 4.5 million specimens.

Why Svalbard?
Svalbard is a group of islands north of Norway. The lack of tectonic activity and extremely cold conditions (think permafrost) make it an idea location for seed storage: if for some reason the electricity fails, the seeds will have little chance of warming up as the vault is sunk deep in the mountainside and surrounded by that permafrost. Clever, yes? Yet another reason is that the Norwegian government paid for the vault, as a service to the world community... and it wasn't cheap!

(This whole thing reminds me of the movie "Titan AE", which I loved. The premise is that the earth has been destroyed by an alien weapon and those humans who managed to escape become refugees, dispersed throughout the universe and considered outcasts because they have no homeworld. One young man sets out on a journey to find the Titan, an earthship which was designed with the ability to create a new Earth. It is also stocked with DNA samples of
Earth species, including animals and plants. )
Librarian Barker

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I saw this on TV! I thought it was the most fascinating library I had ever seen. The collection was more than impressive, physically. I have no words to describe it.
Agnes M