Norway is starting construction on a "doomsday vault" in the Arctic which is designed to house all known varieties of the world's crops.Dug into a frozen mountainside on the island of Svalbard, it is hoped the project will safeguard crop diversity in the event of a global catastrophe. More than 100 countries have backed the vault, which will store seeds, packaged in foil, at sub-zero temperatures.
Fenced in and guarded, with steel airlock doors, motion detectors and polar bears roaming outside - the concrete facility will, its backers say, be the most secure building of its type in the world.
The vault's purpose is to ensure survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change; and to offer the world a chance to restart growth of food crops that may have been wiped out.
At temperatures of minus 18C (minus 0.4F), the seeds could last hundreds, even thousands, of years. Even if all cooling systems failed the temperature in the frozen mountain would never rise above freezing due to the permafrost on the mountainside.
The Global Crop Diversity Trust, founded in 2004, will help run the vault, which is planned to open and start accepting seeds from around the world in September 2007. The bank is eventually expected to house some three million seeds. Link