from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow
So, as we’re all off to hell in a supermarket trolley I thought I’d provide some solace with the knowledge that humanity is already sowing the seeds for its future regeneration. On the desolate, frozen island of Svalbard, midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, is the Global Seed Vault.
Initially envisaged early in the millennium and built in 2008, the Vault is the ultimate storage solution designed to safeguard the seeds of the world’s most important crops from each and every continent on the planet. Stored hundreds of metres deep inside an impenetrable mountain, more than a million frozen seeds are kept at a chilly -18C, and, in the event of any doomsday scenario from zombie apocalypse to asteroid impact, potentially represents our best hope for long-term survival.
Svalbard was selected as the perfect location because of both its climate and its isolation which means that even if they run out of meter-money and power fails, the seeds should be kept frozen for the foreseeable by the surrounding permafrost. Having said that, the effects of climate change can now be felt in this land of extremes and the Vault recently underwent an extensive £17m refit when its entrance tunnel was flooded by a surfeit of rainfall and meltwater. Now watertight and secure, the scientists are back in the game of preserving food and life as we know it.
Unsurprisingly, the overall idea is to avoid genetically modified product and to restore vitally important genetic structure that may have been lost in the process of domestication and development. As it transpires, the process of producing high-yielding seeds has resulted in the genetic make-up of many of the subsequent crops becoming weaker and more vulnerable to pest and disease. Often overlooked, their wild less productive relatives, have thrived and become ever-more hardy and resilient.
And before you think the Vault is overkill and a wasteful insurance policy for events that will never take place, take note that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, over 60% of the world’s population remain totally dependent on agriculture and its produce. That’s over four and a half billion people, and three billion of these rely purely on rice for 80% of their dietary intake.
Whether it’s climate, coronavirus, asteroids or zombies that does it for us, at least we know where to go to sow the seeds of recovery. Me? I gotta fly as I’m currently bidding on a (NWOT) four-pack toilet roll on eBay and I think that’s another Amazon Prime delivery knocking!