In a remote Arctic island off the coast of Norway lays the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Open is 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a back-up for world’s 1,750 seed banks. These are the store houses to maintain and protect agricultural biodiversity.
Seed banks started in the 1970s in response the hybridizing of various seed varieties which were and are largely adopted. Genetic modification has been geared towards breeding and growing crops primarily for optimized yield, cosmetic and shipping characteristics. At the same time, farmers abandoned the use of growing crops from old (heirloom) seeds. In the U.S., for example, this has led to a decrease in the variety of apples from 5,000 to a few hundred. Since this practice started, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 75% of the world’s crop diversity has been lost. The long term consequences of this loss in crop biodiversity is huge since less biodiversity means a decrease in the likelihood that crops can withstand future pests, disease and climate change and therefore could ultimately threaten the world’s long term food supply.
Seed banks are at risk. Several have been destroyed due to fire, floods and war. This is why backup seed banks have been created in remote locations such as Svalbard. It has been nicknamed the Doomsday Vault since it has been optimized to stay frozen for an estimated two centuries if there is a loss of power. In addition, its shape (a concave tunnel head) is designed to deflect the force from a missile.
We support the growth of heirloom vegetables and fruits by belonging to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You can find one near you at Local Harvest.
In addition, we are growing our own from seed. Hopefully, we’ll have some tasty tomatoes this summer.