Friday, February 29, 2008

A Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, or the Doomsday Vault as the media have nicknamed it, will be the ultimate safety net for the world’s most important natural resource. It had its official opening on Feb. 26, 2008.

The Seed Vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Nordic Gene Bank (a cooperative effort of the Nordic countries under the Nordic Council of Ministers). The Norwegian government has funded all of the approximately $8 million construction cost. The Global Crop Diversity Trust has played a key role in the planning of the Seed Vault and is coordinating shipments of seed samples to the Vault in conjunction with the Nordic Gene Bank.

The Trust will provide most of the annual operating costs for the facility, and has set aside endowment funds to do so, while the Norwegian government will finance upkeep of the structure itself. The Gates Foundation has provided approximately $750,000 to assist developing countries and international agricultural research centers to package and ship seeds to the Seed Vault. An International Advisory Council is being established to provide guidance and advice. It will include representatives from FAO, the CGIAR, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources and other institutions. The vault is located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen (population 1900) in the remote arctic Svalbard archipelago. The island is about 1,120 km from the North Pole.

The world's seed collections are vulnerable to a wide range of threats - civil strife, war, natural catastrophes, and more routinely but no less damagingly, poor management, lack of adequate funding, and equipment failures. Unique varieties of our most important crops are lost whenever any such disaster strikes, and therefore securing duplicates of all collections in a global facility provides an insurance policy for the world’s food supply.

The seed vault is an answer to a call from the international community to provide the best possible assurance of safety for the world’s crop diversity, and in fact the idea for such a facility dates back to the 1980s. However, it was only with the coming into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, and an agreed international legal framework for conserving and accessing crop diversity, that the seed vault became a practical possibility. The vault is being dug into a mountainside near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Construction is due to be completed in September 2007. Svalbard is a group of islands nearly a thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway. Remote by any standards, Svalbard’s airport is in fact the northernmost point in the world to be serviced by scheduled flights – usually one a day. For nearly four months a year the islands are enveloped in total darkness. It is here that the Norwegian government has built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, to provide this ultimate safety net for the world’s seeds.

Permafrost and thick rock will ensure that even without electricity, the samples will remain frozen. The vault’s construction has been funded by the Norwegian government as a service to the world community. The Global Crop Diversity Trust considers the vault an essential component of a rational and secure global system for conserving the diversity of all our crops. The Trust is therefore committed to supporting ongoing operational costs, and is assisting developing countries with preparing, packaging and transporting their representative seeds to the Arctic. Find out more about this international project at

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems intnet on going to seed:


A clould shaped like an elephant's head.

Birds, smitten with wings and throat-calls.

Foilage with the unique ability to back-stroke.

A tunnel cut through one lust green mountain.

Soft pink blossoms intnet on survival.

The prime and painted nailheads of the moon.

A complete habitat in a shoebox, underneath my bed.

Poem published at:
Visit my ezine:
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