Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, is the land of the “midnight sun” with almost 24 hours of sunlight during the winter
months. It is also home to one of the most important storage facilities in world farming—the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The seed vault was opened in 2008 in an effort to safeguard the world's food supply for future generations. Svalbard is the
perfect frozen environment to house seed samples, set inside an Arctic mountain at 130 meters above sea level, so it is unlikely
to be flooded. Low humidity, geological stability, and the surrounding permafrost can keep seed deposits cool and dormant, dry,
and viable for centuries.
Seed gene banks from around the world have sent food crop seeds as a fail-safe in case natural disaster or environmental
damage destroys existing supplies. There are around one million seed samples from 80 institutes in the vault at present so there
is a lot of spare capacity for the vegetables, grains, peas, beans, peppers, and legumes that are banked annually. On top of that,
there are foraging grasses and rare flowers such as threatened orchid species from the Myanmar rain forests.
Seeds themselves are not kept for farmers or gardeners to grow produce. Their true value is as a genetic resource in plant
breeding to create new crop varieties. “Think of the seeds as a collection of traits, or even more broadly as a collection of
options our crops will have in the future, options such as disease and pest resistance, drought and heat tolerance, better
nutrition,” said SGSV founder Cary Fowler.
Among those collections we need more seeds from wild varieties, the cousins of domesticated crops, say scientists. As
extreme weather conditions such as higher temperatures or drought affect food crops, the resilient traits of wild plant species
can be added to domesticated plants to improve their resistance to hostile conditions.
Seed banks prefer open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. Open-pollinated plants have been pollinated naturally by insects,
wind, birds or other means and are more genetically diverse and adapted to their environment. Heirloom varieties are those that
have been passed down over generations among communities.
There is criticism of the Svalbard facility in that it grants access to large corporations who could commercialize plant
varieties from the planet's shared natural resources. Co-founder of the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, Kent Whealy, said that
seed deposits placed in Svalbard are under the control of a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization treaty that opens
them up to corporate scientists. That potential weakness is also one of SGSV's greatest strengths—the availability to tap into
plant traits and genetics that can ensure a healthy food supply.
What remains central to the work of seed banks and exchanges—where gardeners and farmers find or exchange seeds that
they either want or have too many of—is supporting communities most affected by climate change, natural or man-made
disasters. To grow plants in adverse conditions means keeping access to the planet's natural resources open, and that is what
seed banks do best.
33. Which of the following, as the article suggests, may be looming in the near future?
(A) Loss of biodiversity.
(B) Defrosted Scandinavia.
(C) Shortage of food supply.
(D) Atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide.