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Arctic seed vault hits 500,000 sample mark

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault said it now has 500,000 unique samples to become the most diverse collection of crops in the world.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault said Thursday that it now has 500,000 unique samples to become the most diverse collection of crops in the world.

The new arrivals included a mold-resistant bean from Colombia and soybeans from the United States.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust marked the milestone in a brief statement. The Svalbard seed vault is designed to be insurance against loss of crop diversity due to natural or man-made disasters. It has been called the Doomsday Vault by the media. The vault opened Feb. 26, 2008 and features a fail-safe design that could withstand a nuclear holocaust or extreme global warming and keep the seeds safe.

Here's a look at the set up of the vault, which is funded by the Norwegian government. The Global Crop Diversity Trust explains:

The Vault is dug into a mountainside near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Svalbard is a group of islands nearly a thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway. Remote by any standards, Svalbard’s airport is in fact the northernmost point in the world to be serviced by scheduled flights – usually one lands a day. For nearly four months a year the islands are enveloped in total darkness. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that, even without electricity, the samples remain frozen.

And the graphic tells construction the tale:

These milestones shed light on crop diversity efforts. It's a noteworthy topic worth exploring more. Among the key resources to check out:

And a video of Cary Fowler, head of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, talking at TED about crop diversity.

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Larry Dignan


Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure