May 08, 2007

Bill Gates Trust Fund secures the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The region of my Science Center is the largest in Norway. Situated in Tromsø, our region reaches 1200 km south, 900 km east and 1800 km north of Tromsø. Our region covers 30% of Norway's land area, but only 10% of the population. To the north we have to travel two hours by plane, if we wish to visit the local school at Longyearbyen, situated at 78 degrees North at the Svalbard archipelago. Going there we need to pay attention to the cold and dark winters, and the Polar Bear. But despite the harsh conditions, it is a wonderful place to be. There is nothing like it, and you have to see it for yourself, I do not know how to describe it the way it deserves to.

Svalbard has had some news coverage lately. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, nicknamed the "Doomsday Vault" by the media, is being built as we speak, outside Longyearbyen at an abandoned mine. The Arctic Seed Vault will rescue and store 95% of the biological diversity of the world's food crops, and will function as a backup for many of the international gene banks around the world. Several gene banks are vulnerable because of inadequate maintenance capacity, natural disasters or conflicts.

The Seed Vault is organized and run by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which has recieved £ 16.8 million from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and £ 4.2 million in matching funds from the Minestry of Foreign Affairs. This is sufficient to deposit 450 000 distinct seed samples in the Svalbard Vault, securing 21 of the world's most important food crops. The Trust was founded by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and Biodiversity International, aiming to conserve the biological diversity of food crops in developing countries.


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