Human World

Cary Fowler’s Doomsday Vault stores the world’s crop diversity

Not far from the North Pole, chiseled deep into a mountain on a remote Norwegian island, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will store a backup collection of the world’s seeds, after it opens in early 2008. EarthSky spoke to Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is spearheading the international project.

Cary Fowler: We’re actually losing crop diversity on a daily basis. I’m really saying it’s becoming extinct on a daily basis. We’re losing crop varieties and we’ll never see those crop varieties again. Any characteristics they might have had, we won’t see that again either.

The vast majority of all food consumed on Earth comes from only about 150 different crops. But there are thousands of different varieties within each crop. Diversity disappears from farmers’ fields as they replace their seeds for higher yielding crops. Seed banks collect and store about 6 million seed samples worldwide to ensure crop biodiversity and food security for future generations. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be used in the event of a regional or global disaster that wipes out countries’ own seed banks. Pulsing lights embedded in the vault’s roof will make it visible from a great distance away in the long Arctic night.

Our thanks to:
Cary Fowler
Executive Director
Global Crop Diversity Trust
Rome, Italy

December 9, 2007
Human World

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