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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/"Doomsday" Seed Bank

Air Date: Week of June 9, 2006

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Lab workers at a seed bank in Mexico, sorting through seeds and selecting high-protein corn kernels for preservation in cold storage units. (Photo: Cutberto Garcia Ramos/USAID)

Bobby Bascomb reports on Norway’s decision to put away some seed funds in the form of a two million species seed bank.

Transcript

BASCOMB: The barren Arctic Circle will soon become one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world- for seeds that is.

Norway plans to build a seed bank on remote Spitsbergen Island. Just 600 miles from the North Pole, it is an ideal location for what will be the largest seed repository in the world. The island’s permafrost condition will keep the seeds dry and frozen no matter what happens to the rest of the world.


Lab workers at a seed bank in Mexico, sorting through seeds and selecting high-protein corn kernels for preservation in cold storage units. (Photo: Cutberto Garcia Ramos/USAID)

The Norwegians liken the facility to a modern day Noah’s Arc; able to withstand doomsday scenerios ranging from nuclear war, climate change, terrorism, and natural disasters. Even if the facility loses power, nature will keep the seeds permanently chilled and waiting for the day scientists hope will never come: when species no longer exist in the wild.

The Norwegian facility will accommodate 2 million seeds; mostly food producing plants, making it the largest of the world’s 1300 seed banks.

The 3 million dollar facility will act as a sort of seed savings and loan. Countries will be able to deposit and withdraw seeds as needed. Norway will own and operate the seed bank. However, they don’t seem too concerned about a stick up. According to management, the bank won’t have any security guards, other than an occasional polar bear.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Bobby Bascomb

 

 

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