Photograph: Mari Tefre/Crop Trust/PA
Spring is in the air for many of us, but in a forever-frozen Arctic mountainside, there's a doomsday seed bunker housing food preservation time capsules that could spring to life if needed. Scientists on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, about 800 miles from the North Pole, say they have amassed millions of plant and vegetable seeds from every corner of the planet in case there's a global crisis of some sort. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault stores backup collections of seeds that are also protected in other seed banks around the world. The Guardian News was lucky enough to capture video at the facility.
Glenn McDonald of Seeker, says Svalbard is an ideal permafrost seed storage island that could withstand a worldwide power outage and even the melting of ice caps since it's 400 feet above sea level. Marie Haga, Executive Director of Crop Trust, which oversees the bunker, says they have 13,000 years of agricultural history inside the vaults. She says, "There are 4,500 varieties of potatoes, 3,000 varieties of coconuts, 35,000 varieties of corn, 125,000 varieties of wheat or 200,000 varieties of rice." Haga adds, "One of those might have the trait that we need in the future to adapt the rice to whatever it is - higher temperature, higher salinity in the soil, more unpredictable weather, a variety that can fight a new pest or a new disease."
The seed vault is the biodiversity dream of scientist Cary Fowler. In 2008, the Global Seed Vault was carved hundreds of feet into the side of a mountain and two years ago, the first seed withdrawal was taken to replace seeds damaged in a plant gene bank near the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo. Feasibility studies confirm that the facility can preserve seeds under current conditions for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years.