This Is the Closest You May Ever Get to the Doomsday Seed Vault

A new doc tells the story of the 'frozen garden of Eden' hiding below the permafrost in Svalbard, Norway.

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

“Most of us take seeds for granted. The fate of human kind is resting on these genetic resources—seeds. So nothing could be more important,” says a voice in the trailer for the documentary Seeds of Time.

The film, which will have its world premiere this week at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, follows the quixotic journey of Cary Fowler, the scientist who is largely responsible for making the the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway a reality.

Indeed, taking seeds for granted seems difficult when the specks and pods and kernels, pregnant with so much potential, are put in the context of global climate disasters and crises of politics and war. It's no wonder the so-called Doomsday Seed Vault has captured the popular imagination in a far greater way than your average genebank.  

Writer Colin Dickey visited the vault recently and wrote about the experience for Aeon Magazine:

Then came the massive whoosh of air from the seed vault, a sudden and powerful exhaust, venting through the building from somewhere deep inside the mountain. A small but steady burst of water came trickling out the bottom of the vault, draining into the ravine below the bridge. After about 30 seconds, both air and water ceased. We stood around a bit longer, taking photographs, discussing what to do next, until the noise returned—about 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, regular and steady. My friend Alia turned to me after a few minutes and said, “It’s breathing.”

It’s a fitting image for the vault, with its collection that aggregates the contents of seed banks worldwide—more than 700,000 samples, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, one of the partners that manages the vault. The global potential of agriculture is tucked away inside.

With Seeds of Time’s food-related concerns and the city’s reputation as a culinary capital, thanks to chef René Redzepi’s Noma, the audience will snack on something more unusual than buttered popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. The premiere’s menu included organic rhubarb wine, chocolate made from wild Amazon cacao trees and an ancient species of gooseberry.

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