On an island near the North Pole, the heads of state of five Nordic countries and the Global Crop Diversity established the cornerstone for a "foolproof" seed vault to be carved into an Arctic mountain.
The vault will ensure the long term survival of vital food crops for the world.
While polar bears roam the island, the head of the Fund referred to the vessel as a protection against disasters – part of a broad global strategy to protect the world's food supply by preserving critical seed collections around the world, from the tropics to higher latitudes. "This facility will provide a practical means to reestablish crops destroyed by a major disaster," said Cary Fowler, Executive Secretary of the Fund and lead author of the recently published Feasibility Study for Arctic seed vault. "But the diversity of crops is not only threatened by catastrophic events such as a nuclear war, but also by natural disasters, accidents, mismanagement and misguided budget cuts." Norwegian government and the Global Crop Diversity led the effort to establish a repository of seeds last resort in the Arctic ice, carved into the permafrost and rock, eventually stored seeds of each nation.
The Fund, an international non –profit organization
It works to support the most critical crop collections in the world, now scattered among some 1,400 gene banks on every continent (except Antarctica). Although conditions vary considerably, many are in a desperate situation, threatening the survival of some unique varieties of crops in the world. However, global agriculture depends on these collections of crop species and their wild relatives. They are vital for the development of new varieties, without which agriculture would stop. Today's ceremony, highlighting the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Dr. Fowler, marking the start of construction of the vault with an event in which the first stone. In a significant expression of support, the Prime Ministers of the four other Nordic nations – Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of Iceland – gathered for the event. Crops Coming in the Cold: The Anatomy of the Seed Vault 's "doomsday vault" or Svalbard International Seed Vault ( SISV ) have a capacity of three million seed samples. Ultimately house replicates of each crop variety known, also, will have ample capacity to accommodate new varieties as they arise naturally. Covered by permafrost and rock samples remain frozen while the electricity fails. Samples preserved in "black boxes" are put into circulation only if all other seed sources have been destroyed or depleted. The Feasibility Study for the doomsday vault meticulously examined the advantages and disadvantages of such a facility in this remote Arctic site. The study concluded that under suitable conditions, seeds of most major food crops could remain viable for hundreds of years, while others, including key grains, could survive thousands of years. One meter of reinforced concrete will fortify the walls of the chamber. Arctic permafrost act as a natural coolant to protect the samples – which will be stored in watertight foil packages – in case a power failure disable refrigeration systems.
Despite the changes caused by global warming, experts believe that deep permafrost will undoubtedly be cold for at least the next 100 years. Even with a complete loss of cooling, the dome temperatures never rise above -3.5 Celsius and approximately 27 degrees Fahrenheit . In addition to strong security gate and perimeter fence, the remote location of the facility will increase safety and the incredibly cold winters, ice shelves and the presence of the Norwegian authorities.
The seeds will be placed in the facility and those replicas available in existing gene banks.
The dome cost about $ 3 million, which will be provided by the Norwegian government. The Fund is committed to supporting the ongoing operating costs, and will make available to assist developing countries with preparing, packaging and transport of seeds representatives to the Arctic. Conserving Crop Diversity for Crop addition to supporting Arctic seed vault, the Fund is developing conservation strategies to each major crop and every region of the world. These include both seed crops as crops such as potatoes that can only be maintained through cuttings, and therefore cannot be deposited in the Arctic vault. With only two years, the Fund has begun funding collections reviews, but in danger of major food crops, including potatoes, wheat and apple. It invested relatively modest amounts, the Fund has held serious threats to food security. Wheat: The rescue effort comes at a critical time. A new type of wheat fungus carried in the air or "blight " that can reduce yields by 55 percent emerged in Uganda in 1999, spread to Kenya and Ethiopia in 2003 and is now coming out of Africa and into Asia South. Called Ug99, the blight was recently reported on the coast of Pakistan and could threaten the harvest 21.6 million tonnes of wheat in India. Scientists need full access to the genetic diversity of wheat varieties to develop immune. A critical collection of wheat can be found in genebanks NI Institute Vavilov Russia, where the Fund is funding the regeneration of seed collections in danger. These include wheat that is originated in Central Asia and Caucasia, outside the center of crop domestication. Some of these rare samples of wheat will be "repatriated " to gene banks in their home countries. The price of this vital program is $ 70,000 per year for three years. Potato: The same potato blight that in the 19th century caused over a million deaths in Ireland has appeared in Alaska three times in the last ten years and has recently been seen in large areas of Bangladesh, where it was blamed by a 50 percent drop in the harvest. The tragedy took place in Ireland because their farmers cultivated only a little amount of potato varieties. However, crop gene banks in South America that protect various collections of wild and cultivated samples could be vital to develop pest-resistant varieties. At least one of these gene banks came close to losing its entire collection of potato after a fault in its cooling system.
The Fund has funded essential repairs, saving the potato collection and collections of maize, barley and wheat. The price: less than $ 25,000. Apple: The most cultivated of all the fruit trees, Apple faces an increasing variety of pests. The proliferation of phytoplasma type of apple virus reappeared recently in Germany, one of the most economically important threats to apple trees in Central and Southern Europe. Additionally, many beloved apple varieties are susceptible to fire blight, which has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics two main pesticides used to protect trees. The disease reappeared in Italy in 2005 after six years of absence. Yet the diverse genetic resources needed to grow apple trees resistant are disappearing rapidly, including in Central Asia where the apple was first cultivated. Now, an investment of the Fund of $ 38,000 a year for the next three years will help ensure the apple to future generations. Climate change exacerbates the challenges faced by farmers in the world – and its dependence on the genetic diversity of crops. A recent ' Foresight ' program in Britain identified 10 major food crops grown in sub-Saharan Africa are likely to be affected by climate change in arid and semi – arid environments. Even now, plant breeders are trying to develop more drought-resistant crops of several of these varieties. Temperate crops are also at risk. For example, many plant rusts thrive under conditions of high humidity and rainfall. This includes a new class of soybean rust, which came to the United States in 2004 from Latin America. Scientists project that the record warm temperatures last winter contributed to the increase in the findings of soybean rust in four states in early 2006. The rust can rapidly destroy 80 percent of the crop. "We need viable collections of crops like wheat, potato and apple in the areas where they originated and are still grown today," said Fowler. "The Arctic vault and other collections around the world will ensure that resources where and when needed. Without them, there will come a time where nothing stands between humanity and mass starvation."
The Global Crop Diversity
The mission of the Global Crop Diversity is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the future of agriculture, funding is unreliable and diversity is being lost. An independent international organization, established through a partnership with the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture), the Fund is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem.
About the author