Skip to main content

The Svalbard Vault of the End Time

PEDRO or POT, he’s a village boy and a grandmother's product. A man of many worlds. He’s a writer, blogger and shares his Stories Online.

Seeds Vault in Norway Set Up as Human Precautionary Measures Against Food Crisis.

The Norwegian government built and launched the Vault in February 2008 to help the global community, which is run by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a non-governmental organization headquartered in Rome.

I only became aware of this incredible feat of human dimension a few weeks ago when I heard that Spain had delivered its boxes of seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

My excitement and curiosity were clear. Nonetheless, my mind wandered. I wonder about what must have brought this noble, and yet determined effort on the part of individuals and governments to secure global food. Could they have foreseen a human tragedy not too distant in the future for having taken such a vast stride?

Moreover, what kind of tragedies have we not seen lately? While I do not wish to sound pessimistic, how is this vault and others scattered around the globe helped alleviate the world food crisis in the past?

What substantial part did it play in the Syrian food shortage during and after the war other than allowing them to withdraw from their safe?

Or what happened in other regions of the world hit by draughts or the threat of climatic conditions as it affects crops all over the globe?

The Man Behind the Seed Vault Idea

Cary Fowler, the former executive director of the Crop Trust, originally conceived the concept in the 1980s, but the concept came to fruition only when the U.N.-negotiated International Seed Treaty came into force in 2001.

The Global Seed Vault and Its Location

The Vault is a seed depository resource of vital importance for the future of humanity.

The Seed Vault is the home of 13,000 years of farming history. This Global Seed Vault was sometimes referred to as the "Doomsday" Vault because it was meant to be kept in case of wildly unrestrained events or a worldwide food disaster.

Seed deposits are as precious as gold. Despite their low monetary value, the boxes could hold the key to global food security in the future.

However, their preciousness is in many ways different from that of gold, oil, diamonds, and many other precious minerals, but they are a guarantee of our future food needs.

These small brown flecks of over 930,000 varieties of food crops, hold the world's largest collection of agricultural biodiversity and function as a kind of safety deposit box.

the Global Seed Vault is found in the heart of a frozen mountain, above the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole.

It is a large island cradled by ice (the Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen, in Norway's Svalbard archipelago), above Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard was selected for the vault precisely because of its remoteness.

Unlike most places on earth, it's free of war and terror, everything you might fear in other places. In a nutshell, it is in a safe area.

Only one repository in the world is comparable to it: the Arctic World Archive, which was opened deep in a nearby mine in March to preserve data for governments and private institutions.

Seeds From Different Continents Find Their Way to Svalbard Global Vault

In 2008, the Svalbard vault was opened for the purpose of storing backups for all those varieties. And the Vault began receiving seeds from all over the world.

The Arctic facility received the first big deposit since an upgrade to make the facility more resilient to climate change.

Some species being saved at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault include seeds from onions grown in Brazil, beans grown in central Asia, and Prince Charles’ wildflowers gotten at his United Kingdom home.

Scroll to Continue

The vault is situated in a mountain cave about 746 miles from the North Pole. More than a million new seeds have been added, bringing the total to over 60,000.

Unlike what is happening with Africans on the international stock market scene, with their complete absence (I hope I am mistaken), however, this time around in Svalbard, their participation is quite noticeable and encouraging.

Reports have it those African countries made their contribution to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as early as 2010.

The Svalbard Vault repository of last resort for humanity's agricultural genetic resources received twenty-one boxes filled with 7,000 unique seed samples from Ibadan, Nigeria.

The regional centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, India, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, and Syria began packing and shipping duplicate collections in January of that same year.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault uses small seed banks around the world to restore crop diversity after disasters such as floods, fires, conflict, and extreme weather.

In 2015, wildlife advocates were able to withdraw seeds from an important seed bank that was destroyed during the civil war in Syria.

Global Vault or the Gene Banks Network

Around the world, there are as many as 1,700 gene banks.

Agricultural research and development are advanced through this global network that collects, preserves, and shares seeds.

The Goal of the Seed Vaults

The goal is to find and house a copy of every unique seed that exists in the global gene banks; soon the vault will make room for its millionth variety. Also, it works in conjunction with those gene banks if their material is destroyed or lost.

The Seed Vault Genetic Diversity

Even though some seeds in the deep freeze of the vault may not be useful any longer (wild seeds and old varieties), the DNA traits contained in the vault may be adequate to develop new strains to meet whatever challenges the world or a specific region will face in the future.

Additionally, one of the 200,000 varieties in the vault may have the trait that allows rice to adapt to higher temperatures, for example, or develop resistance to new pests or diseases. With climate change, this is especially relevant.

Managing the Svalbard Vault Project in the Face of War, Funding, and Natural Disasters

The gene bank in Aleppo was not the first to be threatened by war. Gene banks in Afghanistan and Iraq have been destroyed, along with the genetic material that wasn’t backed up in Svalbard.

In 2008, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was forced to flee its headquarters outside of Aleppo because of the civil war in Syria.

While the organization evacuated its international staff in 2012, some Syrian researchers stayed behind to rescue equipment and other valuables.

In the end, the organization moved to Morocco and Lebanon. However, when the fighting intensified, they were forced to leave behind their gene banks. This collection of seeds, holding some of the oldest varieties of wheat and barley, is among the most valuable in the world.

The threats to these valuable resources go beyond armed conflicts. There have been some disasters, such as flooding from a typhoon and later a fire at the Philippine national gene bank.

A lack of resources is also probably one of the biggest threats facing gene banks around the world.

Many of these organizations suffer from inadequate funding, making storage and protection of their seeds impossible.

There are now 1,700 gene-bank facilities around the world, which act as guarantors of biodiversity, and the Crop Trust is raising money for an endowment fund.

Thanks to Technology for Increased Crop Production

Technological advancements have allowed large-scale crop production over the past 50 years, changing agricultural practices significantly.

Despite increased crop yields, biodiversity has decreased, to the point that today only about 30 crops supply 95 percent of human food and energy needs.

The Damage of Monoculture to Food Supply

In 1950, for instance, China had 10,000 rice varieties; today that number is down to 10 percent.

The United States on its part has lost over 90 percent of its fruit and vegetable varieties since the 1900s.

Due to this monoculture, food supplies are more vulnerable to threats such as disease and drought.

The Concept of Returning Withdrawn Seeds to the Vault

With the first withdrawal of seeds from the Svalbard vault, ICARDA reestablished its headquarters in Morocco and Lebanon and restarted its gene bank in 2015.

Their offspring were carefully harvested and processed to return to the vault after being planted in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and Morocco. The ICARDA returned the seeds it had taken out late in February of the same year.

Seeds and Plants Save Life

According to reports, a few people eventually died of starvation as the siege continued. Despite being surrounded by seeds and plant material, they refused to consume any of it.

Such was their conviction about the importance of the sources to help Russia's recovery after war and ensure the future of humanity. Dmitri Ivanov, one of the scientists, died surrounded by bags of rice.

Boxes with Seeds Coexist Side by Side Regardless of Geopolitical Tension

In an age of geopolitical turbulence and uncertainty, the Svalbard Vault is an unusual and hopeful demonstration of international cooperation for the benefit of humanity.

Regardless of politics or diplomacy, any organization or country can send seeds there. North Korea's red wooden boxes sit next to the United States' black boxes.

A row of boxes of seeds from Ukraine sits on top of a row of root vegetables from Russia.

The position of the seeds is best captured by the words of Brian Lainoff (the Lead Partnerships Coordinator at the Crop Trust based in Bonn, Germany) who stated, "The seeds do not care that there are Korean seeds next to North Korean ones." "They are cold and safe up there, and that is all that matters."

Finally, we can see that there is something that humans have in common, that is food. If we take a harder look, we may also discover that what unites us as humans is more than what divides us. It is all about love and understanding.

Thanks for reading!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Related Articles