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Live from Pop!Tech: Losing Books from the Library of Life

That’s how Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust eloquently describes the ongoing extinction of agricultural crops. As the planet heats up, plants are facing a situation they haven’t seen before. Between climate change and natural disasters and war, we’re losing seed varieties every day. Once they’re gone, they’re gone – one less option in the food chain. No wonder Fowler calls our diversity of crops “our most valuable natural resource on Earth.” It’s the stuff of life.

That’s how Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust eloquently describes the ongoing extinction of agricultural crops. As the planet heats up, plants are facing a situation they haven’t seen before. Between climate change and natural disasters and war, we’re losing seed varieties every day. Once they’re gone, they’re gone – one less option in the food chain. No wonder Fowler calls our diversity of crops “our most valuable natural resource on Earth.” It’s the stuff of life.

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His solution? A massive vault under construction in the side of a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. Six hundred miles from the North Pole, this seed bank, partly funded by Norway, will function as the world’s agricultural safety deposit box. Each vault can store about 1.5 million bar-coded samples. “The technology is not pie-in-the-sky,” says Fowler. “You’ve got it in your kitchen. It’s called a freezer.”

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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