There’s an island halfway between Norway and the North Pole. It is called Svalbard. It is a land of snow and ice. There is a building here. It sticks out of the ice. A walkway leads to a door.
Just past the door is a hallway. Pipes push cold air toward three locked doors. The middle door is covered in ice. What is this place?
Through the icy door, there are rows of shelves. Each shelf holds boxes of seeds. Welcome to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault!
Hallways, tunnels, and doors lead to a vault filled with seeds.
These seeds are stored in glass tubes.
The seed vault was built to store many kinds of seeds. These seeds can grow crops. Why are they here? To protect future agriculture.
As our world changes, we need to be prepared. Our climate is changing. Crops can fail. Pests can damage them. We store seeds in case we need them.
The number of different plants we grow for food is shrinking. Here’s an example. The United States used to have 500 kinds of cabbage. Now, it plants only 28 kinds. It used to have 285 kinds of cucumbers. Now, it plants only 16 kinds. Other countries have this problem, too.
Today, only 30 crops meet 95 percent of our food energy needs. So, storing seeds for the future is a good idea.
Some seeds can stay in the vault for 50 years. Others, like the grain sorghum, could still grow 20,000 years from now!
Expected life (in years)
Map of Washington, D.C., 1860s
The White House
United States Capitol