Thursday, February 2, 2012

Food Ark

National Geographic, Photograph by Jim Richardson of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
I read in the National Geographic about a fascinating effort to store seeds safely to preserve biodiversity. This effort started in 1926 by Russian botanist Nikolay Vavilov.

The National Geographic reports, "Vavilov was obsessed from an early age with ending famine in both his native Russia and the world. In the 1920s and '30s he devoted himself to gathering seeds on five continents from the wild relatives and unknown varieties of the crops we eat, in order to preserve genes that confer such essential characteristics as disease and pest resistance and the ability to withstand extreme climate conditions.

He also headed an institute (now called the Research Institute of Plant Industry, in St. Petersburg) tasked with preserving his burgeoning collection—what amounted to the first global seed bank." 1,400 seed banks are established around the world today.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault which provides an earthquake-free zone  and the collections are stored in a permanently chilled, 400 feet above sea level, ensuring that the seeds will remain high and dry even if the polar ice caps melt.

What a great way to preserve food. I wonder if they give tours.

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