A grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with matching funds from the Norwegian government, is being put toward the creation of a “doomsday seed vault” to help developing and poor nations have enough to eat in a tragic scenario of diminishing crop production coupling a growth in human world population.
Based out of Rome and called the Global Crop Diversity Fund, its vault is being set up in the deep freezes of the Arctic, near the North Pole. The purpose of the doomsday seed vault-actually named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault-is for nations to store what are called “critical” seed crops in a natural freezer where they will be preserved against diminishing returns from crop producers.
Concerns among scientists and leaders that our agricultural capabilities are running down have prompted the project. “The fight against hunger cannot be won without securing fast-disappearing crop biodiversity. Among the crops covered are many ‘orphan crops’ – crops particularly important to the poor but largely neglected by modern plant breeding, despite the need for high-yielding, nutritious varieties. [The Vault] will secure at-risk collections in poor countries and document their astonishing diversity, making it available to meet the food needs of the poor. [The money from the Gates and Norway is] the largest crop biodiversity preservation grant ever made,” the Global Crop Diversity Fund announced.
“Our effort to help hundreds of millions of small farmers and their families overcome poverty and hunger rests in part on food security. But there can be no food security without first securing the basis of our food production – the genetic diversity of every crop, in particular those most important to the poor that unfortunately are neglected by modern plant breeding,” said Gates Foundation Global Development Program president Sylvia Matthews Burwell.
Global climate change and other concerns have set these actions in motion. Climate change could diminish genetic diversity, said the researchers, making for few crops that can grow throughout the world unless steps are taken to preserve them in seed form in a place like The Vault, out of which they could later be removed and grown into plants in artificial climates such as giant greenhouses. Genetic diversity is needed in crops in order to provide the wide array of different vitamins and minerals needed by the human body to maintain health and longevity.
Another concern among researchers is that fewer crops are going to be produced a few years down the road because of the diminishing of bees, bats, and birds thanks to habitat encroachment and new viruses that are deadly to those pollination-driving creatures. Without sufficient numbers of those pollinators, crop yields shall diminish. Poor nations would be hit first and hardest by the losses without something to stem the tide.
Sources: Discovery News, AFP