Aimed at providing mankind with a Noah’s Ark of food in the event of a global catastrophe, an Arctic “doomsday vault” filled with samples of the world’s most important seeds will be inaugurated on Tuesday.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Nobel Peace Prize winning environmentalist Wangari Matai will be among the personalities present at the inauguration of the vault, which has been carved into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, just some 1000 kilometres from the North Pole.
The vault, made up of three spacious cold chambers each measuring 27×10 metres, create a long trident-shaped tunnel bored into the sandstone and limestone.
It has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million batches of seeds from all known varieties of the planet’s main food crops, making it possible to re-establish plants if they disappear from their natural environment or are obliterated by major disasters.
“The facility is built to hold twice as many varieties of agricultural crops as we think exist,” explained Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and project mastermind.
“It will not be filled up in my lifetime, nor in my grandchildren’s lifetime,” he predicted in a phone interview with AFP.
Norway has assumed the €6-million charge for building the vault in its Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, where ironically no crops grow.