Noah’s Ark for seeds


Last week, the prime ministers from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland deposited the first seeds from their countries in the new Svalbard International Seed Vault.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, founded in 2004, will help run the vault on the Svalbard Islands, off Norway’s Arctic coast.

The vault is planned to open and start accepting seeds from around the world in September 2007. It is eventually expected to house some three million seeds.

Norway’s prime minister Jens Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB that “the vault is of international importance. It will be the only one of its kind; all the other gene banks are of a commercial nature.”

The vault is supposed to ensure the survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change, which could wipe out vegetation.

The stock of seeds in the vault, housed underground at -18°C in a secure mine shaft, could then offer the world a chance to start growing crops that may be wiped out.

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