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Gates Grant To Help Poor Countries Contribute To Doomsday Seed Vault

The seed vault in Norway will not flood if Greenland's ice sheet melts, which some estimate would increase sea levels by seven meters (23 feet).
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Apr 20, 2007
A Gates Foundation grant will help developing countries send the seeds of "critical" food crops to a doomsday seed vault in an Arctic deep freeze, the recipients said Thursday. "The fight against hunger cannot be won without securing fast-disappearing crop biodiversity," the Global Crop Diversity Trust and its partner the UN Foundation said in announcing the grant of 30 million dollars (22 million euros).

Part of the grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to which the Norwegian government added 7.5 million dollars in matching funds, will go towards helping poor countries send seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a statement said.

The so-called "Noah's Ark of food" near the North Pole will store at least 450,000 seed samples at a temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 Fahrenheit).

The grant will finance the packaging and shipping of seeds to the fault, Cary Fowler of the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust told AFP.

The funding is "the largest crop biodiversity preservation grant ever made," the communique said.

"Among the crops covered are many 'orphan crops' -- crops particularly important to the poor but largely neglected by modern plant breeding, despite the need for high-yielding, nutritious varieties," the statement said.

The initiative "will secure at-risk collections in poor countries and document their astonishing diversity, making it available to meet the food needs of the poor," trust director Cary Fowler said in the statement.

Genetic diversity "is the raw material that enables plant breeders and farmers to develop higher yielding, more nutritious, and stress-resistant varieties," the communique said, adding that it was essential to adapting to climate change.

"Our effort to help hundreds of millions of small farmers and their families overcome poverty and hunger rests in part on food security," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Development Program.

"But there can be no food security without first securing the basis of our food production -- the genetic diversity of every crop, in particular those most important to the poor that unfortunately are neglected by modern plant breeding," she said.

Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, said, for his part: "By providing access to crop genetic information, plant breeders across Africa may be able to adapt their crops to varieties that will grow in different climate conditions."

The seed vault in Norway would not flood if Greenland's ice sheet melts, which some estimate would increase sea levels by seven meters (23 feet).

Source: Agence France-Presse

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