The Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Nestled in the icy tundra of Svalbard, Norway is a treasure trove of the entire agricultural future. Launched in 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a first-of-its-kind gene bank that collects and preserves all unique gene sets for millions of crop species on Earth. Seed banks have existed since his 1920s, but many have collapsed due to environmental disasters, wars, and simply lack of funds.

That’s bad. Because once crops go extinct, they’re gone forever, and we don’t know what the future holds for the environment. Some traits may be better than others, but without genetic data there is no way to breed crops in the direction that humans need to evolve. For example, if you’ve heard someone born before the 1950s complain that bananas used to be sweeter and more savory, it’s simply because nostalgic goggles are at the edge of biological extremes. It does not mean that it is in They literally ate a variety of bananas, especially Gros Michel, which was nearly wiped out by Panama disease. I’m going to eat stupid Cavendish bananas today.

In the 1990s, Afghanistan almost lost all of their seed banks due to regional conflicts, and after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Professor Cary Fowler of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences became obsessed with the idea of creating a global seed vault somewhere remote where no war or natural disaster could touch it as a sort of backup for the world’s gene banks. In 2004, he convinced the Norwegian government to fund a feasibility study for the project.

Quickly, they decided on Svalbard for its remoteness, peaceful political climate, and blisteringly cold ecological one. As the seeds needed to be preserved at –18 degrees Celsius (–0.4 degrees Fahrenheit), it helped to build the vault somewhere cold enough to keep the seeds frozen in the event of a blackout or other catastrophe. The location also allowed them to build directly into the side of a mountain, leaving only the entrance in the open air, which greatly reduced the need for security. In fact, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has no permanent staff at all, since anyone who wants to break in would first have to defeat the hellish terrain and possibly a polar bear or two.

The Norwegian government approved the vault, which opened in 2008 after four years of construction. The archive was meant to last thousands of years, but the first extraction was much earlier than expected. The 2015 Syrian war has devastated much of the country’s crop and seed stocks, including a special drought-tolerant wheat strain that Aleppo scientists have bred to safeguard the region’s agricultural future. Fortunately, they support 80% of the research in Svalbard and have been able to resume research in safer areas like Morocco.

The creators of this vault believed it could withstand the most extreme climate change projections, but in 2017 the permafrost near the entrance thawed, flooding the front hallway. . Proceeding deeper into the mountain, it froze again, and although the seeds were fortunately not destroyed, much of the electrical equipment had to be replaced and moved. The building was then waterproofed.
vault reopened just in time for him to store a ton of seeds in 2020, with the number of unique strains in his archive just over one million. The Crop Trust, a nonprofit whose goal is to protect the future of agriculture, has raised $360 million to secure his Vault finances for at least the next few hundred years. Hopefully, humanity’s future doesn’t depend on trekking to the ice doors of the Arctic Islands to save us from mass starvation, but we all have that option should the need arise. You can be sure that there is