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Norwegians to build Arctic seed vault

Deep freeze will safeguard world's crops

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The Norwegian government announced yesterday that it will construct an Arctic deep-freeze seed vault to "safeguard the world's crop seeds from cataclysms", Reuters reports.

The Global Seed Vault, due for completion in September 2007, will be dug into a mountainside on the island of Svalbard, 1,000 km south of the North Pole. It'll have space for three million seed varieties, acting as a back-up facility for other seed banks worldwide.

Norwegian Agriculture and Food Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said: "Norway will by this contribute to the global system for ensuring the diversity of food plants. A Noah's Ark on Svalbard, if you will."

The choice of location is key: while the seeds will be stored at -18°C, average summer temperatures of -3 to -4°C mean they would likely remain frozen even in the event of a power failure.

Norway will stump up 30m Norwegian crowns ($4.94m) towards the project, which it has developed with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. Seeds remain the property of the countries making the deposits, and the Global Crop Diversity Trust will offer financial support to cash-strapped nations who want to use the facility. ®

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