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Andhra seeds head for doomsday vault

If an epidemic or war destroys farms and seed stocks, there will still be one disaster-proof vault near the Arctic Circle that the world could unlock for survival, reports Reshma Patil.

tech reviews Updated: Jan 24, 2008 23:26 IST
Reshma Patil

IF AN epidemic or war destroys farms and seed stocks, there will still be one vault near the Arctic Circle that India and the world could unlock for survival.

For thousands of years ahead, a disaster-proof doomsday vault now ready on a remote mountain where polar bears prowl in Svalbard, Norway, will safeguard seeds from across the world. A consignment of about 20,000 seeds this year, and more over the next four years, will also be sent from an international research centre in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault built by Norway’s government will be a ‘repository of last resort for humanity’s agricultural heritage,’ said the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in a statement.

“We will send five crop and six millet varieties, a total of 1,11,000 seeds,’’ H D Upadhyaya, principal scientist, genetic resources, told HT from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad. The shipment will include sorghum, bajra, chickpeas, pigeonpea, groundnuts and millets. ICRISAT is a non-profit CGIAR institute. The Global Crop Diversity Trust, Rome, will fund the transportation costs. The vault will open on February 26. By January-end, it will have two lakh crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

CGIAR centers maintain seeds in gene banks worldwide including at ICRISAT. The vault will store their duplicates as a backup in case of a catastrophe. “If varieties in seed banks have died or been destroyed due to disasters, gene banks that sent duplicates to Svalbard will get a replacement from seed vault,’’ said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Trust. So if you survive doomsday, you may not go hungry.