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Doomsday Seed Vault Design Unveiled 293

Posted by Zonk
from the any-room-for-humans-in-there dept.
in2mind writes "The BBC News is reporting on the completion of a design for a 'doomsday' vault ... that will house seeds. All known varieties of food crops will be represented in the structure, which will be constructed by the Norwegian government. The vault aims to safeguard the world's agriculture from future catastrophes by building into the side of a mountain. On a remote island. Near the North pole. The Svalbard International Seed Vault will house the seed samples at a preservative -18C (0F), and could be used by post-apocalyptic people to feed a hungry planet."
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Doomsday Seed Vault Design Unveiled

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:28PM (#17956700)
    ...on seeds that are buried in a mountain on a remote island? Provided they can get there, how many big macs can they make from those seeds?
    • At least as long as they'll last without it.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday February 09, 2007 @09:33PM (#17957974) Journal
      How long will a post-apocalyptic population last on seeds that are buried in a mountain on a remote island? Provided they can get there, how many big macs can they make from those seeds?

      And they might as well make them into bread, because they are unlikely to sprout.

      Seeds stay fertile only for a limited time. You can stretch that somewhat by keeping them frozen - provided that the particular seeds can survive freezing, of course. But short of cryonic preservation (after perfusing them with cryoprotectants) you're not going to get them to last more than a few years.

      That's why REAL plant gene banks work by growing the plants with heavy water. This drastically slows their metabolism (along with that of any bugs that might attack them), resulting in these tiny bonsai-like specimens that live very slowly - and thus very long - and eventually make seeds you can use to continue the cycle. Grow their seeds in normal water and you're back to normal plants - or gradually switch the plants over to normal water and they may revert to normal growth patterns.
      • by treat (84622)
        That's why REAL plant gene banks work by growing the plants with heavy water.

        Awesome. I see heavy water for sale on the internet. I always wanted a reason to buy some. Is it safe stuff? Obviously I won't drink it. What if my cats nibble on a leaf?

      • "Seeds stay fertile only for a limited time. You can stretch that somewhat by keeping them frozen - provided that the particular seeds can survive freezing, of course. But short of cryonic preservation (after perfusing them with cryoprotectants) you're not going to get them to last more than a few years."

        Some seeds can go over 1,000 years and still germinate. The current confirmed record (carbon dating) is 2,000 years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed#Oldest_viable_se eds [wikipedia.org].

        Seeds are tough. Here's a 120-year experiment: http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/abstract/89/8/12 85 [amjbot.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Some seeds can go over 1,000 years and still germinate. ...

          Seeds are tough.


          Some are, some, aren't. [wikipedia.org]

          As you'll note from the article, some seeds (such as those of cocoa and rubber) are "recalcitrant" and can't be banked at all. Many others can be banked for a few years but need to be sprouted and new seeds grown from time to time.

          Yes, the seeds of some plants can go for centuries. But that's outliers, not something you can count on for seeds of arbitrary crops.
      • by alshithead (981606) * on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:06PM (#17958806)
        From TFA..."Some crops, such as peas, may only survive for 20-30 years. Others, such as sunflowers and grain crops, are understood to last for many decades or even hundreds of years."

        They already know the likely shelf life for most of these seeds. Out of any given sample of seeds a shrinking percentage will germinate over x years. Some seeds last better than others. That certainly doesn't negate the attempt. If even just a couple can germinate then the species can be potentially be brought back. I keep seeds from all kinds of plants from my gardens every year. I've had high percentages germinate from years old seeds and low percentages from last year's seeds. I've always been able to keep a line going even if only a couple of plants matured.

        "That's why REAL plant gene banks work by growing the plants with heavy water. This drastically slows their metabolism (along with that of any bugs that might attack them), resulting in these tiny bonsai-like specimens that live very slowly - and thus very long - and eventually make seeds you can use to continue the cycle. Grow their seeds in normal water and you're back to normal plants - or gradually switch the plants over to normal water and they may revert to normal growth patterns."

        Define "REAL" plant bank for us please. You say, "or gradually switch the plants over to normal water and they may revert to normal growth patterns". Let me emphasize your word "MAY". I would think a real seed bank has seeds from real plants, not plants that have been modified dramatically and may or may not germinate true.
    • You're supposed to plant them. :p

      But rather than traditional nuclear winter scenarios, I think it's a good idea in case any of the bio-engineered crops ever goes rogue, or some freak disease or pest wipes out a species. How many hurricanes would it take to wipe out, say, the localized strains of rice in a region? One year of disasters? Two? Five?

      Or one particularly pernicious bio-engineered cross breeding that produces sterile (no seed) offspring?

    • Provided they can get there, how many big macs can they make from those seeds?

      Plenty, as long as some of them are sesame seeds for the buns.
  • If one of the things they're building this against is global warming, how are they planning to keep the seeds warm if... umm... it gets warmer?
  • Oh Great. (Score:4, Funny)

    by notnAP (846325) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:28PM (#17956708)
    Now the aliens know where to aim their bunker buster lasers.
  • by cobrajk (1002829) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:28PM (#17956710)
    How am I supposed to get to these seeds in a post-apocalyptic world?
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:37PM (#17956834)
      Ocean voyage. Fighting off post-apocalyptic pirates to get to the seed storage site only to find that it's submerged and you have to fight mutant sea creatures to get inside so you can save your village with the last non-mutated vegetables in the world.

      Kind of like a cross between "The Postman" and "Waterworld".

      Okay, I lied about the "good" part. :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        I thought more about a Battlestar Galactica script.

        The seven continents are destroyed by robots we created and must set out in a rag tag fleet of ships across the world in search of a mythological place called SeedVault.
        Along the way there will be plenty of wobbling cameras and infighting and they might even find a temporary home along the way.

         
      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:57PM (#17957090) Journal
        Nah, it could be a good movie, or a good video game, or paper RPG module, or book for that matter. I had the same exact thought, "Whoah, that would make a cool story!"

        Imagine, it starts out in some desolate village, with people scraping by on a few mutant crops and canned goods. Every year, the situation becomes a little more desperate as the crops produce few viable seeds and the canned goods are running out. Our intrepid hero (probably a moon-headed youth out exploring some old ruins instead of working) finds a fragment of an ancient magazine mentioning the seed-vault. He has some difficulty convincing his elders to invest any of the villages precious food-stuffs in his hair-brained scheme, but then the village seed stocks are plundered by raiders, leaving no choice. Of course, the raiders find out about the seed-vault and thus become recurring bad-guys throughout the rest of the story.

        The journey to the seed-vault would be fraught with danger. Mutants, savages, the ever-present raiders, hot-zones and weather run amok all dog our heros on their journey. I say heros, because of course we need a team. There has to be the strong and capable ranger-type who doesn't quite trust the kid; the plucky heroine, tomboyish until she lets her hair down and we discover just how beautiful she is; the kid's geeky friend who knows how to fix things; the brawny muscle-type with a secret heart of gold who sacrifices himself when all seems lost, and the sneaky one who turns out to be a traitor like we always suspected he would.

        When they finally get there, they discover... well, it could go lots of ways here. I'll leave it up to the imagination.
        • Sounds like "A Bug's Life II"


        • I'll have you know that I already penned a rough script on this and sent it to my staff in Hollywood. Any further discussing my script and I'll have to invoke DMCA on you!!!

          • by Dunbal (464142)
            Any further discussing my script and I'll have to invoke DMCA on you!!!


                  Torrent already available on PirateBay, nyeah nyeah pfffffft, both Hollywood and we move faster than you, mister script writer :P
        • by Danse (1026)

          ... The journey to the seed-vault would be fraught with danger. Mutants, savages, the ever-present raiders, hot-zones and weather run amok all dog our heros on their journey. I say heros, because of course we need a team. There has to be the strong and capable ranger-type who doesn't quite trust the kid; the plucky heroine, tomboyish until she lets her hair down and we discover just how beautiful she is; the kid's geeky friend who knows how to fix things; the brawny muscle-type with a secret heart of gold w

        • "When they finally get there, they discover..."

          They accidentally bought the seeds from Monsanto [monsanto.com] and they only get one crop :(

          I've always liked the idea of let down endings, more dramatic that way (aka million dollar baby)

          • by EvilIdler (21087)
            Hey, that could only be the beginning - the rest of the movie could be a Passion of the Christ-style
            extended torture scene involving the descendants of Monsanto >:)
        • by magicchex (898936)
          Fallout kicked ass.
      • I agree. The first thing I thought of when I read the article was that Kevin Cosner is going to be all over the concept like white on rice.

        Serious issues remain though. Despite being remote, they will still need some sort of facility security so some random punks boating around don't run through the place naked eating the seeds and spraying grafitti everywhere. Which brings up the issue of how the surviving Kevin Cosner is going to get into the place given that all the people with the access codes/key
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not only that but it also raises the question of what faction gets the seeds first. If my group, The Crazy Dragon Killers, gets the seeds first we control the populations food source. (possibly only food source)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by shark72 (702619)

      "How am I supposed to get to these seeds in a post-apocalyptic world?"

      With this [snowcrest.net].
    • by BillX (307153)
      Same way you get to them in a post-9/11 world, or a post-Hitler world for that matter. Hope you're a strong swimmer...
  • Assuming they aren't so hungry that they don't just eat the seeds...
  • Oh, okay... no problem... can you fast for three months while we thaw, plant, and harvest??? ~or~ Um, yeah... about that seed cache... well, uh, you see... we sort of buried it in the north pole, but we didn't really count on all the global warming stuff melting the surrounding area and like it all falling into the ocean, you know?
  • yeah. (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:29PM (#17956734) Homepage
    The Svalbard International Seed Vault will house the seed samples will at a preservative -18C (0F), and could be used by post-apocalyptic people to feed a hungry planet.

    I don't think Unicron likes seeds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spykemail (983593)
      You're my hero. But seriously, you'd think the location of this vault might just be forgotten during the APOCALYPSE.
      • by User 956 (568564)
        But seriously, you'd think the location of this vault might just be forgotten during the APOCALYPSE.

        The solution to that is simple. They'll use a Chairface laser to carve the location into the moon's surface.
    • Re:yeah. (Score:4, Funny)

      by evilviper (135110) on Friday February 09, 2007 @08:18PM (#17957314) Journal

      I don't think Unicron likes seeds.

      Oooohhhh... I was wondering why scientists were in such a hurry to change the classification of Pluto to a non-planet last year...

  • Some thoughts... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:30PM (#17956742) Homepage
    The summary claims that it "could be used by post-apocalyptic people to feed a hungry planet". If it were a system of distributed vaults spread around the planet, I could see this happening.

    But a single vault in an inaccessible area? Let's consider the situation. If the world is 'post-apocalyptic', that means some seriously bad stuff has happened. To assume that whatever happened was so selective as to leave the worldwide transport infrastructure needed to take the seeds and "feed a hungry planet" but happened to kill all seed stores and food sources... requires a stretch of the imagination that would snap a logical mind.

    I'm all for dramatic story summaries that play fast and loose with the facts to get me to- hey, wait a second, no I'm not.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      But a single vault in an inaccessible area?

      Each country already has their own seed banks.

      [...] leave the worldwide transport infrastructure needed to take the seeds and "feed a hungry planet" but happened to kill all seed stores and food sources...

      Why would you need a "worldwide transport infrastructure"? A single ship (from the 1700s) could make the trip, load up a significant portion of the seeds, and drop off a load on each continent if you like.

      That's merely assuming the location of the vault is not co

    • by binarybum (468664)
      yeah, and it would have to be a lot of seeds in this one vault. Seeds are mostly fiber anyway - post-apocalyptic people would probably prefer it if we just crammed the thing full of beef-jerky.

    • by AlHunt (982887)

      The summary claims that it "could be used by post-apocalyptic people to feed a hungry planet". If it were a system of distributed vaults spread around the planet, I could see this happening.

      Let me be the first to accuse you of not reading TFA. This is but one of a number of seed banks around the planet, according to TFA.
  • by oskard (715652) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:34PM (#17956790)
    Scientists go to the North Pole to build a Doomsday Vault, only to find such a vault is already there.

    o_O
    • Well, okay, they were going there for a geologic exploration, and it was the south pole. But Mr. Lovecraft [wikipedia.org] was pretty close...
    • Scientists go to the North Pole to build a Doomsday Vault, only to find such a vault is already there.

      Just don't tell me it's full of toys and elves.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      We're at the end of the current 20,000-year interglacial period of warmth and about to plunge back down into a frigid 80,000-year period of glaciation. [wikipedia.org]

      The 100,000-year glaciation cycle is as regular as clockwork, and nobody really has a clue how to stop it. (Chucking massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere isn't anywhere near enough.)

      So shouldn't the Doomsday Vault be located somewhere where it can be reached, rather than on a mountain side that will soon be (geologically speaking) under 3 kilometers of
      • by mschuyler (197441)
        It's possible it won't be. During the last ice age the water used to form the ice drew down the sea level enough to allow migration of plants, animals, and Siberians across the Bering Strait into Alaska and down into North America, one of the major (but not the only) ways North America was populated originally. It's a fallacy to think a given ice age covers the poles like Sherman-Williams paint. The glaciers advance, but in lots of fingers rather than one big sheet. I don't know that it can be predicted whe
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Scientists go to the North Pole to build a Doomsday Vault, only to find such a vault is already there.

            And a competing studio brings out a copycat with a twist. The scientists go to the North Pole to build a Doomsday Vault, only to find that the North Pole is no longer there!
  • ...where did I leave that key?
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:36PM (#17956814)
    The assumption for this project is that you'll be able to find enough other sources of food to last you until the next harvest; canned goods, plants, the dead. No one said this is supposed to feed survivors immediately, otherwise they would have built a pantry. Plus, with all the genetic engineering going on, it's nice to know that we have at least some of the original stock preserved should we accidentally implant some Achilles Heel that causes a crop to be wiped out be disease, plague, or climate.
    • Plus, with all the genetic engineering going on, it's nice to know that we have at least some of the original stock preserved should we accidentally implant some Achilles Heel that causes a crop to be wiped out be disease, plague, or climate.

      That's what I'm thinking - it's really unlikely we'll ever need to use it as a true "doomsday store". But as a reference for older genetic strains from a certain timeframe...

      I hope they keep up regular deposits of things.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Make sure you test the backup regularly. It would be quite a nuisance to wake up after a global disaster and find out that your seed backup is corrupted.
    • by tchdab1 (164848)
      >>The assumption for this project is that you'll be able to find enough other sources of food to last you until the next harvest; OK - so include several pallets of McDonald's gift certificates to keep everyone filled until the crops come in. Come to think of it, just leave a printer for those gift certificates, and skip the seeds! Brilliant!
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      No one said this is supposed to feed survivors immediately, otherwise they would have built a pantry.

            Everyone will be eating SoyLent Green in the meantime... I just had to... had to!
    • by BillX (307153)
      Or patent law. Wouldn't Monsanto et al just love it if you could no longer legally obtain a corn seed they did not receive royalties for?
  • by mpapet (761907) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:36PM (#17956818) Homepage
    As much as /.'ers love to complain about how bad a software mono-culture is, the _entire_ agricultural community is operating under very similar conditions. The risks to our food production capabilities are extremely high.

    While doomsday headlines right off the Weekly World News attract eyeballs, the reality is that this seed storage facility may be far more beneficial than most people realize.
  • by Camel Pilot (78781) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:37PM (#17956820) Homepage Journal
    Seems like putting all your eggs in a single basket is maybe not the best solution.

    Since seeds are cheap why not distribute storage repositories around the globe?

    Nonetheless I am thankful that the Norwegians are doing this for potentially all of humanity.

    Come to think about it, I suppose the fact that our collective genome is stuck on this planet is akin to putting all your eggs in a single fragile basket.

    • > Come to think about it, I suppose the fact that our collective genome is stuck on this planet is akin to putting all your eggs in a single fragile basket.

      I am cynical but the escape to space seems not really a good idea. If we're not capable of keeping one planet in good health for the climate, the life varieties, and our fellow humans, we don't really deserve to colonize other places.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Camel Pilot (78781)
        I am cynical

        Yup you are....

        but the escape to space seems not really a good idea. If we're not capable of keeping one planet in good health for the climate, the life varieties, and our fellow humans, we don't really deserve to colonize other places.

        Looking back at the history of the earth there are dozens of mass or large extinction events that happened without any help from humans at all. The list of possible catastrophes includes
        • Iceage
        • Asteroid Collision
        • Massive Volcanic Eruptions
        • Supernova
    • by daeg (828071)
      Eggs in one basket is better than eggs in no baskets.

      One step at a time.
    • by markana (152984)
      >Nonetheless I am thankful that the Norwegians are doing this for potentially all of humanity.

      It *almost* makes up for their foisting of lutefisk on the rest of humanity...

      Good thing they aren't storing any cod or lye in the vault. Or are they???

      (and yes, I've had first-hand familial experience with the stuff)
    • You're right, it's not a good thing to put all of humanity's eggs (or seeds) in one basket. Someone has to take the lead, though, in making the first one. (Actually, the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] says this facility will be an improvement over one that has already been in use since 1984 in an old coal mine on the same island group.)
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:37PM (#17956830)
    If they started based on economic value I'm assuming the first seeds included were Hemp. It's the biggest cash crop in the US.
    • Maybe for you it is, hippie.
  • by schwaang (667808) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:43PM (#17956916)
    Now they'll have something to eat besides all the cockroaches.
  • by davevr (29843) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:44PM (#17956932) Homepage
    When they open the vault, all they will get is a notice saying that the usage rights of these seeds has expired and to please contact patent-holder Monsanto for a renewal.

  • by dkf (304284)
    Is it going to be guarded by sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads?

    (Gotta watch out for those Norveegians and their doomsday lairs!)
  • dependencies? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fred fleenblat (463628) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:46PM (#17956964) Homepage
    Seeds don't just grow in sterile dirt. You need the little microbes, worms, fungi, and whatnot to complete the nitrogen cycle. Plus bees to pollenate any flowering species (fruit trees).
  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:52PM (#17957042) Homepage Journal
    Didn't USA build a doomsday vault for patents? It scares me a lot more than the doomsday vault for seed. Because it means that somebody might actually have a plan to rule the post apocalyptic world, and when that somebody is powerful enough, there's interest for the apocalypse to begin.

    People naively assume that since the climate ruins the entire planet, nobody really wants climate changes to happen. This is just a random assumption. A polluted planet means man is not free to breath air, drink water, procreate. And those who have the knowledge to make food water air or babies in that polluted world, rule it.
  • "... and could be used by post-apocalyptic people to feed a hungry planet"

    Am I the only one who read this as to not mean the hungry people on the planet? I read it more as a means to rebuild the eco-system of the world, thus feeding the planet. Sure, building the agriculture back up will in turn feed the people; but a long term goaled project like this surly is planning for a long term result.

  • Not unless I can get there first and make popcorn out of the lot of it! RS \
  • a la Silent Running.

    Jeepers, it seems everyday, there's some BIG reminder that this civilisation is freakin' toast.

    If it isn't oil depletion, it's global warming. If it isn't that, it's seed banks. If it isn't seed banks, it's 5 minutes to midnight...

    I said, "Hey MISTER CONDUCTOR! WHERE ARE WE GOING TO???"

    He said,
    "I don't know. I'm just following the tracks..."

    RS

    • t seems everyday, there's some BIG reminder that this civilisation is freakin' toast.

      There was a recent Doctor Who episode that explored this. We go around worrying so much bout how the human race is going to die out, that we never consider the option that maybe nothing happens and we survive and thrive.
  • ... and included cannabis and poppy seeds.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      ... and included cannabis and poppy seeds.


      More than likely, since at least the poppies are extremely useful to produce morphine and other opiods. Cannabis is being thoroughly researched for its anorexogenic (makes you thin) and antiemetic (prevents you from puking) properties. Probably coca plant seeds as well, since most of our topical/local anaesthetics are derived from cocaine - and raw cocaine is used quite commonly in ORL (Ears-Nose-Throat) surgeries since it's both an anaesthetic
      • I would think that after the sort of apocalypse that has you looking for seed banks, the appeal of anorexogenic anything will go down sharply.
  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Friday February 09, 2007 @08:56PM (#17957702) Homepage
    Mr. President, we must not allow a Seed Vault gap!
  • Considering this is a building whose entire purpose is to give seed to the planet, the floor plan is architecturally appropriate. I'm sure it's intentional. This architect deserves an award.
    • I normally don't reply to my posts, but I have something to add, and I can't resist.

      Please note that this is obviously a European design. "Sleeve to protect tunnel from erosion and climactic changes" would likely have been edited out of the final draft if the designer was American.

      I'm sure this design project was quite entertaining.
  • I just don't like the sound of that... sounds kind of tentacly.
    • People after the apocalypse can't be too picky.

      If all we have are doomsday seeds then we grow doomsday plants and eat doomsday fruit (bitter at first, but you'll get used to it).

      And even if those doomsday seeds don't grow, we'll still have cockroaches and dandilions, right?

  • A good idea... (Score:5, Informative)

    by capebretonsux (758684) on Friday February 09, 2007 @09:08PM (#17957806)
    From reading a few of the comments I think that some posters are missing the point. First off, the idea is not to save a few seeds in the hopes that those seeds will feed the 'entire' population of earth after planting just one crop. The idea is to preserve the overall agricultural diversity of our 'future' ecosystem. As one particular species of plant (or whatever) goes extinct, the proposed seed bank would (hopefully) ensure that our future ancestors could reintroduce the species back into the ecosystem, assuming that whatever caused the species to go extinct was no longer present, be it nuclear war, climatic changes, etc. As for the location, well, I imagine that it makes more financial sense to keep them in a place where you won't have to foot the air-conditioning bill. Sure, it would be great to have these 'master-backup' seed banks all over the earth to prevent a wayward disaster from wiping out the whole stock, but I'd guess that the cost of building a cold-storage facility for an indefinite period of operation in Nairobi would be much more costly. (Not to mention that if the arctic DOES melt, we're all probably done for anyways...) And the article does mention that there are several seed banks already in existence, and that this facility is to be a more secure backup to the existing banks. Just my 2 cents...
  • It'd be sort of funny if after the apocolypse (which is sort of funny when you think about it) if nobody could get to the seeds, and then about 10k years later the seeds escaped but due to evolution and all that good stuff (accelerated by the post-apocolyse end stuff) the plants whiped out the existing plants which killed off the animals which couldn't digest the new plants and didn't have the old plants to feed on.

    What a hoot.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      It'd be sort of funny if... old plants to feed on.

      2 questions...

      1. Dude, what are you smoking?
      2. Can I have some?
  • Does it come with a stardrive?
  • Government... the cause of and solution all of life's problems.
  • by bagsc (254194) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:39PM (#17959040) Journal
    1) Build Post-Apocalyptic Seed Bank for $5 million
    2) Cause Apocalypse
    3) Profit!!
  • by beadfulthings (975812) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:44PM (#17959068) Journal
    And not enough emphasis on the biodiversity aspects.

    We're really shooting ourselves in our collective foot by the "efficiencies" being implemented in modern farming. Where before there might have been numerous different and diverse varieties of a plant--potatoes, say, or tomatoes, beans, peas, or apples--now farmers concentrate on just a few that are high-yielding or easy to control or that are otherwise "efficient." The same holds true of animals used for food. Many formerly robust breeds of pigs or chickens or beef cattle are now verging on extinction because it's cheaper to focus on raising one or two breeds.

    What happens if a blight or pest shows up that devastates our few varieties of corn or wheat? Suppose the more popular breed of swine or chicken develops some sort of genetic anomaly or other disease? I believe (but am not sure) that there's already been a scare regarding corn. It could happen with any other food plant.

    Interested hobbyist gardeners have been forming "seed savers" groups for years to perpetuate what they call "heirloom" vegetables. (They do it for ornamental plants, too.) More recently, small-scale farmers and hobbyists have begun doing the same thing with "heritage" livestock animals such as turkeys, chickens, and swine.

    There's an interest in these products among food lovers (fancy restaurants, famous chefs, or what-have you). Heirloom tomatoes and heritage pork are deemed to be a lot tastier than the everyday supermarket varieties, and I suspect that may be true. But more attention needs to be paid to preserving all these breeds and varieties so that our food plants and animals retain the robustness that comes from diversity.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @05:52AM (#17970850) Homepage
    Why, how can Norway spend money on this far-sighted project?

    They nationalized the oil industry. They don't pay tens of billions of dollars a quarter in raw profits to the big four oil corporations. They have their own oil resources in the North Sea.

    And since the told the reavers to get the hell out, they are running nice surpluses, have an excellent federally funded school system, giving them intelligent citizens, and they may save the plant diversity of the planet during the coming climate wreck.

    Now, if they can fast track some space colonization, they might save humans from getting overheated to death.

    These are things you can do if your country isn't being run by international oil companies.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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