March 12, 2010 Sometimes called the Doomsday Vault, built inside a mountain located in a remote area of Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to reliably store the world’s remaining samples of important agricultural seeds over extended periods of time. Given the year-round, chilly conditions of the surrounding arctic permafrost, the seeds (no GMO’s are allowed at this time) are kept at an ideal temperature just above 0 degrees F through mechanical cooling powered by a single 10 kilowatt compressor. Should the power go out, the highest temperatures inside the vault would still fall below freezing (27 F), providing up to 200 years of adequate refrigeration, presumably enough time to fix just about any problem.
Designed to hold up to 4.5 million seed samples, the seed vault is intended to conserve agricultural diversity for future plant breeding and research. Crop diversity is so important to agriculture because it provides the pool of biological resources to draw upon when environmental conditions significantly change over short periods of time. Crop diversity is nature’s diversified portfolio, helping to insure long-term survival of a species by conferring certain strengths within a variety, under a given set of environmental conditions— for example, from pests, drought, or other climate change related issues—a survival edge over its related breathren. It also provides the necessary diversity of the gene pool for farmers and plant breeders to further refine. In the past 100 years, many varieties of crops have been permanently lost, no longer growing in farmers fields, nor saved as samples in any known gene banks.
Aproximately 1400 gene banks throughout the world hold seeds, (and for species that do not produce useful seeds such as bananas, potatoes, apples, etc. ); gene banks are not well suited for long-term storage being susceptible to funding issues, poor management, and infrastructure problems. Since February 26, 2008, the seed vault accepts seeds from these institutions, and depending upon the species of seeds, can safely store their samples for periods ranging between 1000-20,000 years. Some species do not survive such long storage, even under ideal conditions, and may only last about 50 years.
Currently, the seed vault holds over 500,000 agricultural seed samples.