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'Doomsday' Vault Is Key To Food Safety

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Seed Vault 1While President Barack Obama may have had to face a lot in order to secure the Food Safety Act for America, the courageous scientists at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are braving much worse in order to keep the crops of the world safe in case the “doomsday” catastrophe actually strikes the earth. If you are worried, what would happen to the world’s agricultural property in case the doomsday prophecy comes true, rest assured, the seeds of the world are in safe hands, or rather, safe vaults. Read on to know more about this amazing facility that holds the key to feeding the world till eternity.



The ‘Doomsday’ Vault



Born out of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agricluture of 2004, the vault was financed by the Norwegian government. Nothing is charged from the depositors of the seed varieties. The Vault is built in Norway, on a discreet Arctic island, just off the coast. Premiers of five countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland) laid the cornerstone for the vault, at a ceremony held near the town of Longyearbyen, in Norway’s Svalbard Islands. It started building in 2006, when the press called the vault “the most secure building of its type in the world.” This is because the vault has been outfitted with steel doors that lock in air, state-of-the-art fencing, and a unique but effective guard system. The vault is operated by the Global Corp Diversity Trust (GCDT) and its main purpose is to save the seeds in case of calamities such as nuclear war or asteroid attack.



Are The Seeds Safe? Seed Vault 2



Yes, the seeds are safe inside this vault because it seals the seeds in special four-layer packets. The packets are sealed with heat inside so that the moisture is kept at bay. The packets are stored at temperatures in the range of minus 18 degrees Celsius. This way, scientists claim, the seeds can be kept safe even upto thousands of years. Isn’t that amazing? In fact, the location of the vault is no less amazing because even if the cooling system of the vault fails, for some reason, the permafrost weather conditions of the island are enough to keep the seeds from rising above freezing level. At the time of its inauguration, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had said, “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.” His Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen called the vault a “Noah’s Ark on Svalbard.”



Seed Vault 3The Vault Is Already A SUCCESS



The Vault is built with a capacity to hold up to 2.25 billion seeds, which are enough to cover all the crops currently being grown in the world. In other words, ever country and every community’s food safety needs are taken care of inside the vault. The first lot of seeds was rice varieties grown in 123 countries. The facility was already pronounced a success within the first year of its existence. In the first year itself, 25 national as well as international institutions had sent more than 400,000 unique seed samples to be stored at Svalbard. However, the Vault management has requested that new crop varieties be sent constantly to the Vault to maintain the level of food production even in wake of the climatic changes as predicted for the 21st Century.



The Vault Is A Backup Seed Vault 4



That is what Cary Fowler, executive director of GCDT, thinks. Speaking about the future prospects of the seeds stored inside the vault, Fowler says, “I’d say doomsday is happening everyday for crop varieties. Lots of people think that this vault is waiting for doomsday before we use it. But it’s really a backup plan for seeds and crops. We are losing seed diversity everyday and this is the insurance policy for that.” He touches upon a very important aspect of seed safety, which may come in handy in wake of a doomsday reality. This is why it is important to maintain this diversity within seeds stored inside the vault. Fowler explained this to a newspaper recently, “Conserving the plants that feed us -- our crops -- is a distinct challenge because it is not the species, but the genetic diversity within species that is the focus. And the “use value,” another hotly contested topic, is undisputed: it is a simple fact that without access to crop diversity, we will not be able to grow the food we require in the future. Diversity is a prerequisite for crop improvement and adaptation.”


The Vault is no less than an assurance to the world that its food is in safe hands for the future generations, no matter what calamity visits us. Food is an integral part of a better future for all, so this vault and the seeds inside it will always be a reassuring sight to all.


Image Courtesy: futurecry, regjeringen

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'Doomsday' Vault Is Key To Food Safety