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An Arctic Fortress Contains Ten Thousand Years of Agriculture


Norway has created a repository for every kind of seed in the world, the legacy of ten thousand years of agriculture. It has built a Global Seed Vault in the archipelago of Svalbard, just outside the Arctic Circle. The fantastic place, in its almost extraterrestrial, glacial setting, is simply a storage facility. None of its contents is analyzed nor research is conducted. Yet it is vital: since the 1970s, developments in agroindustry have resulted in a narrowing of the genetic pool of apples, avocados, wheat, barley, chickpeas and potatoes, to a few dozen varieties. This is in contrast with the thousand of genetic types that bloomed in fields and orchards in the early 20th century. Whenever we think of endangered species, our mind usually goes to the animal kingdom. Svalbard stands as a Noah’s Ark for the often overlooked botanical wealth of our planet.


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