In the far northern reaches of the Norwegian arctic in an area called Svalbard the world is entrusting the preservation of stock seeds of its major food crops. If you’ve ever wondered how the world might recover from an Armageddon type of catastrophe this is part of it. Hopefully we will not suffer the effects of nuclear war, political turmoil or climatic upheaval, but if we do there will be over 6.5 million different cultivars of crops properly stored that can be retrieved from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. In today’s move towards genetically engineered crops there may also come a time when genetic diversity decreases to the point where these stored seeds can be a mainstay.
The vault officially opened today with stockpiling of a variety of grains and legumes weighing in at 11 tons and representing 92 different crops. Stockpiling will continue for several years with crop seed being supplied by plant breeding facilities most located at universities. It is impressive to see world governments coming together to work on such a project.
The vault is maintained by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). The GCDT was established through a partnership between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research as an independent organization to ensure conservation and availability of crop diversity. Genetic diversity is an important scientific concept especially when it comes to crops. Diversity ensures that there are a diversity of crops adapted to a variety of growing conditions. I only hope that the vault also contains a variety of herbs because in the case of “doomsday” these will be of utmost importance. But we should also all make sure that we are saving seeds from crops such as herbs that are of importance to us as well. If doomsday does come our lives will depend upon herbal medicines. You can read more about the vault here: