Doomsday seed vault finally stocked


Creative Writer
From The Times

February 27, 2008
Doomsday vault for world’s seeds is opened under Arctic mountain


Three chambers have been built 125 metres (400 feet) inside a mountain close to the town of Longyear-byen in Svalbard, a Norwegian island about 500 miles (800 kilometres) from the North Pole.

An opening ceremony was conducted at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, as 100 million seeds from more than 100 countries were placed inside. The first day’s deposits comprised 268,000 samples and filled 676 boxes.

The project is intended to provide a failsafe against disaster so that if a seed collection is destroyed in its natural habitat there is an alternative source of supply. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is behind the initiative, said that by preserving as many varieties as possible the options open to farmers, scientists and governments were maximised. “The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” he said.

Many varieties of seed kept in the vault are no longer used commercially but it is possible that they will prove invaluable as world conditions change,.

The facility has been designed to keep seeds safely frozen for centuries and, at 130 metres up, the mountain is high enough to be safe even from catastrophic rises in sea levels. Similarly, amid the worst levels of global warming, in which the permafrost of the Arctic island would start melting, the seeds will be safe for up to 200 years.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, said: “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 civilisation.”

During the opening ceremony he unlocked the vault and, helped by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Nobel prize-winning environmentalist, placed the first seeds inside. Politicians and experts from around the world attended the ceremony at the vault, which is big enough to store 4.5 million samples, adding up to 2 billion seeds.

Some seeds will be viable for a millennium or more, including barley, which can last 2,000 years, wheat 1,700 years, and sorghum almost 20,000 years. Dr Maathai said: “The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation.”
It's a fascinating project that will be play a role in the future.

As time goes on, it'll be interesting to see whether any additional samples are included such as frozen embryos of livestock, medications, or even human DNA mapping.