It’s got all the exciting elements of a science fiction novel.? ? A seed bank as strong as a fortress built into the side of a mountain in the remote arctic wilderness built for the purpose of preserving food sources in the event of disaster.? ? Among the specifications for the bank are dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and one-meter thick walls of steel reinforced concrete.?
Built on the island of Spitsbergen in the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean in the country of Norway, a group of wealthy corporations has invested millions of dollars in their project named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.? The mission statement is:? “So that crop diversity can be conserved for the future”.
The group of investors includes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation, and the Government of Norway.? ? Both Monsanto Corporation (US based) and Syngenta Foundation (Swiss based) are leading agricultural companies active in the development of genetically modified plant seeds and related agricultural chemicals.
? The vault is located 130 meters above sea level to ensure that the building will be safe in the event of ice caps melting in a catastrophic event.? ? The vault entry is a narrow, triangular door comprised of cement and steel protruding out of the mountainside.?
The actual storage area of the vault is located at the end of a 120-meter tunnel, which was blasted into the permafrost mountain.? The vault itself consists of chambers measuring 375 square meters.? ? Plastic boxes roughly the size of moving boxes will be stored on metal shelving.? Each box will store approximately 400 samples in envelopes made of polyethylene.? Each sample will contain approximately 500 seeds.? ? Each sample will be stored in a watertight package to protect the seeds from moisture in the unlikely event of a cooling system failure.
The seed vault will house up to three million different varieties of seeds from all over the planet.? ? In preparation for the February 26, 2008 official opening, the temperature of the sandstone rock surrounding the vault has been being lowered from the normal -5 degrees Celsius to -18 degrees Celsius by means of a special refrigeration system.? ? There will be no full time staff necessary to operate the seed vault.? ? It has been designed to run itself independent of human direction.
As the official opening date draws near, seeds are beginning to arrive.? Shipments been already been received from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.? The seed vault is operated similarly to a safe deposit box in that ownership of the seeds is retained by the individual depositors.? The seed vault will be managed and overseen by the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust.