Just over two years ago I wrote about the Svalbard International Seed Vault, aka the Doomsday Vault. It’s an an ultra-secure facility being built to store and protect seeds to ensure crop biodiversity in case of disaster.
Situated near the North Pole, the vault was cut 120 meters deep into a rock face and is 130 metres above current sea level – a protection against climate change and global warming related sea level rise.
2 years on, the Global Crop Diversity Trust has announced it is on track to save 100,000 different varieties of food crops from 46 countries from extinction. The Trust already has agreements in place in 46 countries to rescue some 53,000 of the 100,000 crop samples identified as endangered.
Some are so endangered that they are no longer grown, but exist only in seed collections. Some of the samples of the varieties have fallen to below 50 percent germination rate, which means they must be quickly regenerated or they will be lost forever. Many of the world’s 1500 genebanks do not not know what is being stored in their facilities, nor even whether the seed is alive or dead.
In a world where GMO crops and Big Agriculture are taking over, the seed vault is a reassuring disaster backup plan, but at the same time it’s quite disturbing that we have come so far as to needing such a thing.
While it is comforting to know that these seeds are locked up – they are under lock and key and a very long way from most of us. Something many of us can do to help preserve food crop diversity is to get away from the seeds offered by the major seed companies and start using heirloom and heritage seed varieties.