Why did the seed go to the North Pole? – Svalbard Seed Vault takes in new samples

“It is two and a half minutes to midnight”

This sounds like a line from a novel right? Well, it is actually the 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement. The Doomsday Clock is a symbol for how close the Earth is to complete catastrophe. This could be through environmental, politically-invoked or a mixture of other factors. Every year, this Clock is re-evaluated by a group of scientists called the BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS (yes, read this in a loud, deep and echoy voice. These are very official people – how many groups of scientists call themselves a bulletin?). If you would like to read more about the Atomic Clock or view their statement, here is the link to their website: http://thebulletin.org/timeline.

In reaction to the clock moving forward, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has added 50,000 new seed samples to their already massive collection of 880,000 seeds. Included in these new seeds are samples of potato, rice, barley, chickpea (yay hummus), lentils, and wheat from donors all around the world such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, India, and Morocco. The vault is already the home to seeds such as African and Asian rice and wheat varieties as well as numerous species of vegetables from Europe and South America.

 

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Seeds on the left, packaging for the seeds on the right

 

Svalbard is a seed bank that had been initiated and is run by the Norwegian government and supported by the Crop Trust. It is located on an island between Norway and the North Pole. The cold conditions of the island also aid in the storage of seeds which need to sit at a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius. In addition to that, the vault is built into a mountain.

 

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The entrance to the vault

 

A seed vault is basically a safety storage for the genetic information of many plants. It is a safeguard that is of the utmost importance. In the case that there is an environmental disaster that wipes out all of the crops, we would be able to access the seed vault and restart the crop population. Besides that, the vault does not only exist for the purpose of remedying the effects of an apocalyptic event. Marie Haga, the Executive Director of the Crop Trust says “Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong.”

What do I think?

It is cool, both figuratively and literally (because of the temperature). Maybe I like the idea of an isolated vault because I am an introvert but I also think that it currently plays an important part towards human survival and will continue to in the future. Seed vaults are probably on the top ten lists of underappreciated things only because seed banks are shy and tend to keep to themselves. Most jokes aside, I first heard about seed banks when I was in Grade 11 Biology class, so I doubt that many others have come across this topic of discussion. Seed banks help sustain life in many parts of the world or even propel life in parts of the world that are developing. Since seed banks donate seeds for research, the genetic information of many seeds can be combined to create a crop that is nutritious and easy to grow with less water and this plant can be brought to famine-wrought countries so we can be one step closer to ending world hunger or even just local famine.

Although storing a bunch of seeds may not be interesting, I think many people would be relieved to hear that we have a backup copy of all of the food that we have. From this article, I gained information that brings to light how the world is in critical condition even though they only mentioned the Doomsday Clock very briefly. When the news first came out about the Doomsday Clock moving, I had never even heard of it except in movies with cheesy supervillains. Then when I found out that it was a real thing that signified the end of the world, I thought that it was a little (or very) dark for people to be thinking about the end. Svalbard accepting new seeds also shows their fear of what might happen to the world and that is a pretty scary thought.

I have never had enough commitment to keep a plant alive so I guess I do not have the best green thumb but I would still love to visit this seed vault and see what kind of things they have going on there. I am sure that the size of the facility and the vast number of seeds stored there will blow my socks off and not to mention the shock I would be in to find the number of individual seeds that might be in the vault. I would also learn so much about the plant cuisine of other countries and continents and point out some of my favourite vegetables and fruits.

Reading about food crop also has me wondering whether or not they store tree seeds or samples to other types of plants or if there is a seed vault that does that.

 

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Photo of the vault from the interactive tour

 

Update: I have been onto the Crop Trust’s website and the maximum amount of seeds that can be stored would be 2.5 billion :O <– shocked face. Can you imagine all those little pellets? There are also big seeds and it would be amazing to see the range in sizes of seeds. The downside to all of this is that they do not allow visitors into the vault (well, it is a vault) but you can do a virtual tour on their website. I am not too disappointed that I cannot actually visit in person because I do not travel much anyway. Also, the vault location, entrance, and main tunnel remind me of this horror computer game I played once. It even took place in a snow storm which happens often outside of the vault. (If you want to see what game I am talking about, it is the game being played in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiVmknVoPvA&t=90s)

To end this blog post, I have a little DIY project for you. It does not involve seeds but roots. If you like green onions, you can grow your own at home by cutting off the root and putting them into a cup of water. You just have to refresh the water every once in a while and pretty soon, you will have new green onions. You can also chop the green onions up and freeze them so they do not die.

Here is a wikiHow article on growing green onions. I am talking about the water in a jar method because it is so easy: http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Green-Onions

If you want to access the virtual tour: https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/interactive-visit/

If you want to read the same article I did: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/svalbard-seed-vault-accepts-50000-new-samples-just-in-case-doomsday-arrives/

Reference:

Hale, T. Svalbard Seed Vault Accepts 50,000 New Samples, Just In Case Doomsday Arrives. IFLscience [Internet]. 2017 [cited 1 Mar 2017]. Available from: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/svalbard-seed-vault-accepts-50000-new-samples-just-in-case-doomsday-arrives/

 

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