Svalbard

What just happened in Svalbard could threaten the world’s food supply

News From Svalbard

Up in Svalbard, the world’s greatest treasure is kept in cold storage. Seed samples representing many important food crops from around the globe are protected from catastrophe in the world’s largest secure seed storage facility, the Global Seed Vault. With room for 4.5 million different types of seeds, the vault is designed to keep its potentially irreplaceable contents cold, dry, and viable.

The seed vault is buried in the permafrost, keeping the seeds at a temperature that’s constantly below zero in a building designed to last indefinitely. According to the Norwegian government, “the facility is robustly secured against external hazards and climate change effects.” The international biodiversity nonprofit Crop Trust vouched for the vault as “a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time — and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.”

However, according to The Guardian, the unyielding vault has yielded to the effects of climate change.

“The Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.”

The seed vault, built and funded by the Norwegian government, serves as a repository only. The seeds themselves remain the property of the countries and institutions that gave them to the vault for safekeeping. Though no seeds were destroyed by the flood, the threat of another climate-related crisis at the facility is a looming possibility.

the delve

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