Entrance to the seed vault. Photo from the Global Crop Diversity Trust via IRIN
Photo from the Global Crop Diversity Trust via IRIN
Today the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture shipped 7,000 seed samples from 36 different African countries to Oslo. On 26 February 2008 these seeds will be among the first to be put into the specially prepared vault deep in the permafrost near the village of Longyearbyen.
The seeds will be stored at –18 degrees Celsius in specially designed, five-ply aluminium foil packages inside sealed boxes stored on high shelves inside the vault. The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay aging.
If there should be a disaster in the world affecting agriculture or the gene bank, the seeds will be there to provide some food security. They hope to have 4.5 million seed samples.
The collection and maintenance of the seeds is co-ordinated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which has responsibility of ensuring the "conservation of crop diversity in perpetuity". The Norwegian government has built the vault at a cost of $9m (£4.5m), for the benefit of mankind.