Wednesday, 29 February is the Earth Arc Day. On this special day (every four years) people on the Earth planet are encouraged to collect some local seeds, put them in an envelope or bag , and ship them to a seed bank for storage that will ensure preservation of world's diversity of food crops in case of global disaster (climate change, tzunami, plant disease etc). The stored seeds could remain undamaged for decades, and even centuries.
There are some 1500 seed banks around the world, but they are rather vulnerable, for various reasons: mismanagement, lack of funds, energy failure, civil unrest etc.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault (nicknamed 'Doomsday Vault' by the Media), opened four years ago on 26 February 2008 and financed by Norway, is supposed to function as a Back-up for all other seed banks.
Svalbard is an arctic arhipelago ; the seed bank built inside one of its mountains is considered better and safer than the ones in the other parts of the world. The reasons are obvious. The place is remote, far from human threats and dangers (such as wars), it's geologically stable (almost no earthquakes), its climate is freezing (which is optimal for the preservation of seeds ). This seed bank is built deep into the mountain and high above sea level to withstand a nuclear attack or flooding, and is very well guarded.
entrance to Svalbard vault (Web picture)
The seeds (only original samples , not genetically modified ones) are stored behind many locked doors, in sealed air-tight packages put inside sealed plastic boxes. The conditions in this storage facility are monitored both electronically and physically.
There are some nice, interesting videos on YouTube taking us on a tour to the vault. Here's a short one:
No doubt, a seed bank is a smart concept, Svalbard Vault is a fascinating project. Yet, the whole idea of seed storage is quite thought-provoking. I can't help asking myself this: what if some elite group gets hold of the vault to dominate world's food supply? In case of a global nuclear disaster, what good would these undamaged seeds do if the soil and atmosphere are contaminated with radiation? Let's hope there won't be any nuclear disaster and nothing bad will happen to the vault either.