Global Seed Vault Saves Our Seeds

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Norway, global seed vault

At the very core of agriculture is its responsibility to feed the world. Without food, we have nothing. But to take it a step further, without the seeds from which to grow plants, we have no future. Scary thought, but fortunately, there are groups of scientists across the world working to prevent this problem.

Last winter, a facility was established in Norway to house and preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from all over the world. This facility, called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, holds duplicate samples of seeds held in other country’s seed banks, as a “back-up” copy in cases of accidental loss, global warming, mutant plant diseases and mismanagement of other seed banks, especially in cases of developing countries.

That’s a good idea, considering that about 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost in the last century, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. For example, consider that in 1900, some 8,000 varieties of apples were grown in the United States. Today, only five percent of those exist. Learn more facts about this interesting agricultural project, including its Tennessee ties.

The seed vault is constructed almost 400 feet inside a sandstone mountain, below the permafrost on Spitsbergen Island, 700 miles from the North Pole.

The seed vault can hold 4.5 million seeds – all of which must be dried to a particular moisture level and sealed inside air- and water-tight packages.

Seeds from more than 100 countries are currently stored at the seed vault and will be preserved for hundreds of years, possibly longer.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault cost nearly $8 million to build, paid for by the Norwegian government and Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Cary Fowler, a Shelby County native, is the executive director of the Diversity Trust, based in Rome, and manages the seed vault project.

He found his interest in agriculture as a young boy, spending summers on his grandparents’ farm near Madison, TN.

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