Agriculture's Plan B: Seed Vault Opens

The Global Seed Vault opened in 2008 on Svalbard, Norway, above the Arctic Circle. (Image credit: Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust, Creative Commons license)

It's been years in the making. Finally, humanity's biological plan B, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, is open in the Arctic Circle.

Buried deep in a frozen mountain on Norway's Svalbard island, the vault houses the world's most comprehensive and diverse collection of food crop seeds. Should disaster befall us, humanity can rely on the vault to provide a spare copy of the genes of our most important agriculture.

The vault opened today to receive shipments from more than 100 countries of 100 million seeds, ranging from varieties of maize, rice and wheat to lettuce, barley and potato.

“With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The vault was established by Norway as a service to the world.

  • Video: The Arctic Meltdown
  • Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth
  • Image Gallery: Earth From Above
Clara Moskowitz
Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has written for both and Live Science.