The officially called “Global Seed Vault”, located on the remote Spitzberg Island, the largest in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, houses around a million seed duplicates from all over the world, from the tropics to the highest latitudes.
Considered the basis of our diet, these seeds are saved and guarded in order to ensure the survival of food crops in the face of possible natural disasters, wars or sabotage.
According to the Global Fund for Crop Diversity, the survival of some of these varieties, unique in the world, is threatened, especially due to advancing climate change.
Prepared to safeguard the genetic heritage of more than 4.5 million seeds, the construction of the also known as the “end of the world vault” was initiated by Norway in 2006 with the support of the United Nations Organization for Agriculture and Food (FAO), the Nordic Genetic Bank, the Global Fund for Crop Diversity, Latin America, Africa and Europe and with the “challenge” of feeding 9,000 million people in 2050, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at the time.
The beginnings of this idea
The origin of the seed bank, a place that cannot be used for scientific research, and which arose at the initiative of a group of farmers and the American geneticist Cary Fowler, dates back to 1983, when the FAO approved the International Undertaking on Phytogenetic Resources.
Later, the project was promoted in 1992 with the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biodiversity and finally took off in 2004, with the entry into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
Finally, on February 26, 2008, the Svalbard Vault was officially inaugurated and that day the first 268 thousand seeds from a hundred countries in the world were deposited there.
Currently, and according to official data from the organization, the vault houses 1,125,000 seeds of some 5,500 species and 89 gene banks.
The safest place in the world
Resistant to volcanic activity, explosions, earthquakes, radiation and sea level rise, the seeds buried at more than 10 meters are preserved in this Norwegian vault, and will do so for hundreds of years thanks to a layer of “permafrost”, at a natural temperature of -6 degrees Celsius and an additional artificial cooling system at -18 degrees, which guarantees low metabolic activity.
Rectangular in shape, 54 meters long and 6.2 meters high, the Svalbard vault is carved out of a sandstone mountain some 130 meters deep, divided into three rooms and situated at the end of a corridor of 125 meters long.
The site has the maximum security measures to avoid possible sabotage and since 2019 it has had a new water-resistant access tunnel incorporated in anticipation of a rise in temperatures.
And since nothing is improvised there, the decoration of its ceiling and entrance, made by Norwegian artists, with steel and mirrors, is designed so that the roof acquires a turquoise and white tone in winter, which gives it visibility hundreds of meters away. , and in summer reflect polar light.
Considered the safest place in the world, the underground cavern to which very few have access, is guaranteed against situations such as those experienced in national seed banks in Afghanistan or Iraq, which were once looted and destroyed, not for the interest of the seeds, but because of the plastic containers that stored them, or the one in the Philippines, devastated by a typhoon and many of its samples ruined.
The seeds can only be extracted from that store in case of destruction of a variety or that the donors, as owners, so require.
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Source: from El Sol de Mazatlán | Noticias Locales, Policiacas, sobre México, Sinaloa y el Mundo – frontpage on 2022-09-19 23:00:00