Friday, 25 January 2008

Doomsday Vault

LONGYEARBYEN, Norway, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Seeds from more than 200,000 of the Earth's crops are being stored in an underground Norwegian vault capable of keeping them safe for thousands of years.

The seeds -- drawn from vast seed gene bank collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR -- will be shipped to the village of Longyearbyen on Norway's Svalbard archipelago near the Arctic Circle. There they will be taken to the Svalbard Gloval Seed Vault that's been constructed on a mountain deep inside the Arctic permafrost.

Officials said the cornucopia of rice, wheat, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, lentils, chick peas and a host of other food, forage and other plants will be a repository of last resort for humanity's agricultural heritage.

The vault is intended to ensure the seeds will be available should a man-made or natural disaster threaten the world's agricultural systems.

According to Geoff Hawtin, acting director-general of The International Center for Tropical Agriculture, "With coming climatic changes, higher food prices, and expanding markets for biofuels, our best available options for progress, if not survival, will be in what we have conserved and studied against all thinkable predictions."

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