Sunday, January 3, 2010


In 1939, world famous archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones was cornered by circumstances into an excavation deep into Iraq and Turkey leading to the Ark of the Covenant. Within the Ark of the Covenant lies the fountain of youth, the holy grail of power. It was said that; he who posses the power shall lead an invincible army, and thus it was the focus of an absurd fascination by Hitler’s Nazi. Prompting our legendary Dr. Indiana Jones played by the dashing Harrison Ford to the rescue, saving the world from Hitler’s chic mustache and in the process earning George Lucas and Hollywood USD145 million in 1981. That was off-course the Hollywood block-buster epic “Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark” I was mumbling about.

This week I am working on a similar themed paper. But lets go to Hollywood again, except this time we go to the 2012 Doomsday studio section of tinsel town; the new block-buster thriller movie that’s raking in the hundreds of millions for Hollywood. In this movie, we were shown a world that was suddenly facing polarity changes and these changes had affected the earth’s cycle and sequence of normal practices that we have all come to taking for granted. Continents perished when the sea rises far above and beyond the shorelines, cities, civilizations, indestructible military might were all lost instantly to the sea that swallowed everything mankind has come to know, and the world has recycled itself, and replenished itself yet again.

But for me, it’s all about protecting the environment and preserving humanity. A reminder that we humanity must play good to our host mother nature and running our civilizations effectively. But what if – just say what if – the Inca’s got things right? Just say that 2012 Doomsdays happens and then after all the sea swallowing episodes and continent perishing chapter gets done, after the Hollywood credit roll, and humanity need to start anew and evolve again, just how do we go about doing it when all the crop has disappeared?

Well enter “The Doomsday Vault” in the Artic Mountains of Norway. And it gets exciting from here on!

Seed Bank Is Being Built: Ark of the Lost Crop!

In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirrelling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.

Dynamited out of a mountain side on Spitsbergen island around 1,000km from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom. It is the brains child of soft-spoken academic from Tennessee, the United States, who is passionate about securing food for the masses, and will back up seed stores around the world that are vulnerable to loss through war or disaster.

A 20m-long concrete entrance still under scaffolding, juts out of snow-dusted mountain above coal-mining town of Longyearbeyen. It is reached by a switchback road rising to 120m above the sea level, offering spectacular views of the fjord below and snow-capped Arctic mountains beyond.

Visitors descend through the mouth of a gently sloping 40m steel tube into the frosty cavern which smells of new cement and is dotted with portable lamps as work progresses for February's opening.

There's aren't going to be any better storage conditions than what will be provided here. This is a safety deposit box, like in a bank, where you put your valuables.

Although this is one of the world's most northerly settlements, an electric freezer will be used to keep the seeds in the three-chambered concrete-lined vault at minus 18C. If the power fails, permafrost will still keep them frozen, but not as deeply.

The project is at the heart of an effort by Fowler's foundation, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, to safeguard strains of 21 essential crops, such as wheat, barley and rice. Rice alone exist in about 120,000 different varieties. Ultimately, it is part of the world battle against hunger, as crop insecurity mainly hurts poor nations.

"Crops important to the poorest of the poor have really been neglected," an official at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has provided financial support was quoted as saying of the project, more often referring to such varieties of crops and seeds as "orphan crops" because they have no one to take care of them.

Diversity For Evolution

The aim is to preserve genetic diversity, needed by the plant breeders in the future to produce varieties able to adapt to challenges like climate change. Crops consist of numerous species. If such a store had existed 10 years ago, the seeds would have been needed about once a year as seed collections have been wiped out - for instance by a typhoon in the Philippines and war in Iraq and Afghanistan and those are samples of man made catastrophe.

Eventually, the vault will have capacity for around 4.5 million bar coded seed samples and it hopes in its first year to collect half a million. Not all seeds can be stored by freezing. Banana, the world's fourth or fifth most valuable crop, is one example. The longest viability under these conditions would be that of sorghum - about 19,500 years. Other varieties will need to be replaced more frequently.

"Extinction happens when a species loses the ability to evolve." Seed Packets

Norway is contributing some 50 million crowns (US$8.6mil or RM30mil) to build the cavern, a sum which Development Aid Minister Erik Solheim said was a pittance for what is gained.

"I consider it a development issue. Poor African countries have fewer resources to protect their genetic heritage than rich countries," he said.

The Gates Foundation, the philanthropic giant created by the founder of Microsoft, has given a US$30mil (RM105mil) grant to Fowler's effort, including money for packaging seeds in their countries of origin and shipping them to the vault.

Some of Gate's money has gone to develop a new style of seed packet, a small silver-coloured pouch made of a special foil and layers of other advanced materials to keep seeds dry and frozen - the "Rolls Royce of seed packets".

The Gates Foundation is also helping develop two software systems, one to help manage seed banks and another to link them globally so that plant breeders can find what is available.

"Seeds are almost the software of natural world that has taken millions of years to develop, and we don't know how we will need them in the future," - those words came from the Gates Foundation. Well, I say we should also include all the recipes found on blogs!



indahhouse said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply]Best Blogger Templates

Salam Deliah. Wat pe tu? Hepi new year :)

Deliah's Deli said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply]Best Blogger Templates

salam nurindah...hepi new year gak kat nurindah sekeluarga...sibuk nampak tahun baru ni :)