Arctic Vault to Store Seeds in Case of Disaster

June 26, 2006

Washington, 23 Jun 2006 More than 100 countries are chipping in to build a vault to store the seeds from thousands of crop varieties around the world in order to safeguard crop diversity in the event of catastrophe. The vault is being built into a frozen mountainside in Norway where the seeds will be packaged in foil and stored at sub-zero temperatures.

Most seed banks are commercial or run by national governments, and 40, out of about 1,400, have been destroyed. If a crop type is lost through natural disaster or war and duplicates in seed banks are also destroyed, replacement seeds can be requested from the backup vault. There are also hundreds of undiscovered genes among crops in the vault that could be useful in the future to deal with environmental changes.

The National Research Council reports Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I -- Grains and Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes With Promise for Worldwide Cultivation describe crops of Africa and South America that could become important contributors to the world's food supply because of their solid nutritional quality and adaptability. The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System recommends a major overhaul of how the United States preserves plant genetic material crucial to sustaining agricultural productivity, and calls on the nation to play a role in international conservation efforts to maintain global biological diversity. Managing Global Genetic Resources: Agricultural Crop Issues and Policies goes in depth into the management of large international collections of genetic material, including copyright and quarantine issues.

Other Resources:

The National Academies: Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering and Medicine
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