Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault Gets Multimillion-Dollar Upgrade

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault wants to safeguard the world's food supply against war, climate change, or natural disaster.

by Mayukh Sen
27 February 2018, 4:57pm

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Ten years ago, the Norwegian government built a vault on a sloping sandstone mountain within the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, and stashed within it a variety of crop seeds. The watershed project, dubbed the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, had been conceived as a stronghold against the potential damage wrought upon the world’s food systems due to climate change, natural disaster, or war.

This seed vault essentially functions as a thumb drive for the world’s crop supply, housing nearly 900,000 seed samples from around the world. It aims to provide a potential backup for countries whose crop supplies are depleted, giving them the tools to rebuild what’s been lost.

The Norwegian government announced last Friday that it will now allocate 100 million Norwegian crowns, the rough equivalent of $12.7 million, in funds towards the vault. This money will go towards creating a "concrete-built access tunnel," along with a a service building meant "to house emergency power and refrigerating units and other electrical equipment that emits heat through the tunnel."

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food did not respond to immediate request for further comment regarding its construction timeline from MUNCHIES on Monday.

There have been indications, in recent years, that not even this seed vault may be immune to those ebbs and flows of the world's climate as it was built a decade back. In October of 2016, the area surrounding the seed vault was subject to temperatures so unseasonably high that the permafrost around the vault melted, leading to flooding within the vault.

Implementing these proposed fortifications may better prepare it to withstand more developments should they arise in the future, which, unfortunately, seems somewhat inevitable. Perhaps this seed bank will save us all.