The Norse government is investing over 10 million euros in the renovation of the world seed bank, a bunker on Spitsbergen in which approximately 900,000 seeds that are crucial to guaranteeing the food supply chain on earth are stored. By retaining these seeds in the bunker, their DNA will remain intact in the event of a large-scale natural or nuclear disaster.
The world seed bank is located at a depth of 120 m in a mountain near the town of Longyearbyen on the site of a former coal mine. The temperature is artificially maintained at 18 degrees below zero to store the seeds, which are sealed in special moisture-impermeable packaging, as long as possible.
With the money reserved by the Norse government, a special area will be built for electrical devices that discharge heat from the bunker. This will allow the temperature in the bunker to remain as cold as possible. In addition to this, the bunker will be given a new, watertight entrance. At the end of 2016 it was discovered that the current entrance leaked when the permafrost from the mountain unexpectedly melted.
Because of the world seed bank contains specimens of all the most important seeds to be retained during a nuclear or natural disaster, it is also referred to as Noah’s Ark. Out of all the seeds retained by the seed bank, at least 18,000 samples come from the Netherlands. The bunker contains, among others, seeds for leeks, onions, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, oats, pepper and white beans.
Three years ago, the very first appeal was made to the data bank for seeds. During the Civil War in Syria, over 116,000 different types of seeds were secured and stored in the Norse bunker. In 2015 the world seed bank sent the seeds back because things were calming down in Syria. This is the first time that seeds were sent from their storage place back to their country of origin.
Source: NOS. Photo: Dag Terje Filip Endresen.