“The Fort Knox of Seeds”: A backup copy of biodiversity

One hundred nations are collaborating on building the world’s largest seed bank — a storage facility for 2 million different varieties of plant life. It’ll be located in frozen Svalbard, up in a section of Norway located above the Arctic Circle, and it’ll be hermetically sealed with a couple of feet of concrete. The idea, as the Washington Post reports, is to provide a backup copy of our biodiversity — so when the planet gets schmucked by a nuclear holocaust, an asteroid strike, or global warming, we can reboot and try again.

Apparently there are already lots of seed banks around the world, but they’re all pretty insecure and have collections that are really incomplete:

“Svalbard is meant to be the bank of last resort,” said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group, a Canadian civil society organization focused on food security. “It’s where you go if you can’t go anywhere else. It’s the backup for the whole world.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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