Friday, August 31, 2007

Norway: Noah's Ark of seed samples tucked into Arctic mountainside

Terra Daily, Agence France-Presse: Carved into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, a "doomsday vault" housing samples of the world's most important seeds is taking shape to provide mankind with a Noah's Ark of food in the event of a global catastrophe.

At the end of a narrow gravel road in Norway's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard where, ironically, no crops grow, construction workers are toiling away on the top-security seed vault with six months to go before it opens. An enormous freezer measuring 5,200 cubic meters (6,800 cubic yards), the vault will preserve some 4.5 million batches of seeds from all known varieties of the planet's food crops.

The hope is the vault will make it possible to re-establish crops obliterated by major disasters. "It's a cheap insurance policy," says Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the project's mastermind.

… "It doesn't take an asteroid hitting the Earth ... to endanger the biodiversity. Technical failures, bad management, typhoons or wars all contribute" to the threat, Fowler said. Already, some of the world's biodiversity "has become extinct like a Tyrannosaurus Rex," he said, citing the destruction of seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan due to wars and another one in the Philippines due to a typhoon.

…The Norwegian archipelago, which is politically stable and distant from any seismic activity, was selected for its remote location "away from natural disasters, wars, civil strife and a lot of the kind of craziness that goes on in the world today," Fowler said….

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