On the Svalbard island of Spitsbergen, one of the remotest places on Earth, mostly covered with ice and hundreds of miles from mainland Norway to the south and Greenland to the west, a doorway leads into the side of a frozen mountain. Inside, past a long hallway and through an icy chamber, is a minus-18-degrees-Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) room, containing nothing but rows upon rows of containers.
The containers are full of humble seeds, frozen and preserved — hopefully forever (or long enough, anyway). Ultimately, there’s enough room to store 2.25 billion of them.
Scientifically inclined — and worried — humans built this. It’s the pinnacle of an ancient quest to store seeds so as to preserve agricultural diversity and give a backstop against any crop disaster.
Indeed, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is described by the Crop Trust, which helps to fund its operations, as the “ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth.”
Why is the world preserving so many seeds? The Crop Trust gives no less than six reasons, many of which are fundamentally environmental. Much of it comes down to this — when conditions change, we need to be able to breed new plant varieties to create crop strains that can, say, thrive in a warmer world. Or a drier one. Or a wetter one. Whatever happens.
To do this you need, as a baseline, access to as much genetic diversity as possible — so that scientists can start breeding new plants right away if it ever comes to that.
Read full original article: This is the backup plan if all our crops are wiped out