The venture is well on its way to becoming a reality, as construction on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault started Monday. The chamber is designed to house as many as 3 million of the world's crop seeds.
Its purpose is to ensure survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change. The vault also will offer the world a chance to restart growth of food crops that may have been wiped out.
The seeds, packaged in foil, would be stored at such temperatures that they could last hundreds, even thousands, of years, according to the independent Global Crop Diversity Trust. Plans are currently underway for the seed vault, located roughly 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole, to open and start accepting seeds from around the world starting September 2007.
Already, some 1,400 seed banks are located around the world. Most are national projects that contain samples of the country's crops. The U.S. also has similar seed preservation operations underway.