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article image'Doomsday Vault' to be Opened at End of Month

By KJ Mullins     Feb 17, 2008 in World
Deep in the middle of a Norwegian mountain the "doomsday vault" lays in wait of a worldwide catastrophe. Nestled into this mountainous vault are seeds of all the world's crops.
The island of Spitsbergen is half the size of England with a population less than 2,300. It's as close to the North Pole as you can get without the aid of sleds or a support team. It is accessible by aeroplane. The average temperature is -16C this time of the year. No trees grow in this barren dark land. From November to January there is no sun. About 60 per cent of the land mass is glacier. People carry guns and they shoot to kill. In the midst of all of this harsh life lays a possible key to the world's future.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has been built into a mountain here. It holds samples of every agricultural seed in the world. In an icy vault the seeds will be able to survive wars, global warming, missiles and pestilence. Rising tides will not wash away the means of survival if all else fails. The permafrost of the mountain ensures that the seeds will never see a temperature above -3.5C.
Construction of this Norwegian project took over $3 million and the Global Crop Diversity Trust oversaw the process, making sure that the seeds housed inside would stand the test of time. At the end of February the mission will be complete. An opening ceremony will take place with Nobel Peace Prize-winning biologist Wangari Maathai, the Prime Minister of Norway, and the president of the EU. At this time the seeds of the world will be put to rest waiting for the worst to happen.
The mountain vault consists of three 100x30ft chambers to its rear. It will be storing 1.5 million distinct agricultural crop seeds.
'This is a resource for the world,' Dr Cary Fowler, the 58-year-old executive director of the Trust explained.
'Every nation has been invited by the Norwegian government to place its seeds in this vault. It's the last line of defence against extinction for all the crops we have, and the most long-lasting, most futuristic and most positive contribution to humanity being made by the international community today.'
Crops are becoming the new dinosaurs. 100 years in America there were 7,100 varieties of apple. Today there are 300 varieties left.
90 percent of the vegetables of England have disappeared within the last 100 years.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that in the past century 75 percent of the world's agricultural diversity has vanished. Each day another plant disappears from the Earth.
I don't believe it has really sunk in yet, in the scientific community, at a government level or with the general public,' Fowler said. 'There are varieties of our agricultural crops becoming extinct. We won’t ever see them again, just like we won't see the dinosaurs.'
Fowler has traveled the world this year collecting the seeds that the vault will store, 45 countries to be exact.
As the world climate continues to change so will the crops that countries will need to cultivate. Added heat affects pollen and the moisture levels in soil. With heat comes diseases and pests that plants have to deal with, many will not survive.
Perhaps "Doomsday" will be the key that will feed our grand kids.
More about Doomsday vault, Norway, Seeds
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