So, maybe you know that the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway is finally open. Maybe you, like me, had a wide-eyed pollyanna optimism about the global cooperation necessary to undertake this project, and the fact that seed populations from around the world were being secured in a country relatively unlikely to be ravaged by war or extreme natural disaster anytime soon (knock wood). Maybe you, like me, were thrilled with the idea that, should World War XXV someday leave nuclear winter blazing across a continent or two, the genetic diversity of the crops devastated by such an event would not be lost forever, but preserved somewhere they could be retrieved and then reintroduced.
I guess it's a little more complicated than that.
Now, I totally get that the GSV is obviously easier to access for global organizations, like national governments and scientific collectives, than poor farmers without surplus resources. I totally get the concerns some NGOs have about seed populations not evolving while in cold storage, which could lead to less viable crops that aren't as prepared for the environment. I think it's absolutely valid to remain concerned, and to keep the folks running the GSV honest by asking lots of questions.
However, I have to laugh. The vault itself (while certainly built to withstand natural disaster and nuclear strikes and thus a useful failsafe if such a broad-ranging crisis were to occur) it not necessarily intended as some sort of seedbomb timecapsule. Its purpose, rather, is to act as a backup for individual local genebanks - many of which are located in countries and regions vulnerable to war, political strife, or natural disaster (since war and natural disaster seem to be so damn common, these days).
The media have been calling it the "Doomsday Vault" - because sensationalism sells. People don't want to read about help for local farmers and regional genetic researchers and seed breeders - they want to read about "food is safe if nuclear bombs kill all the plants." I mean, sure, that's partly the actual case....but a gross misrepresentation of how the seed vault will most likely be used. And while I think the social justice concerns are valid, and I hope the UN entity tied to the administration of the seed vault will go out of its way to ensure that poor farmers have access - I think some of the concerns are only valid in a doomsday scenario. If an existing local seed bank is regularly adding to its backup collection at the GSV, there should be no concerns about evolving seeds, since the most recent evolutions will be stored. (Or at least that's the way I'm understanding the administration to work.)
Anyway, yet again, the media creates the idea of a crisis where there is none. Spin, spin, spin.
GSV @ Wikipedia
WikiNews Story on GSV
Global Crop Diversity Trust
Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.