So, I saw this article floating around the Facebook Public House yesterday. I only read the first few paragraphs and then I spent hours I should been studying doing research on the issue (and the author) myself. Today I read the rest of the article and saw that the connections I had made doing my own research were in the article-I could have saved myself some time!
As someone who is deeply suspicious of anything having to do with Monsanto/Agricultural Biotech and those who support and partner with those companies (namely the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation), I have to agree with the author William Engdahl (who is a controversial figure) that there is something that feels a little sketchy about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault -or more pointedly, the groups that fund and control it. On the surface it seems like a really great and honorable idea (listen to the Ted Talk by executive director Cary Fowler). Seems super awesome, right? I’m especially supportive of the idea of vaulting genetic diversity in the face of the genetic contamination that is happening as a direct result of Biotech’s efforts to GM/hybridize and patent as many seeds/crops as they can.
But here’s the deal: The vault is being funded -to the tune of tens of millions of dollars- by many of the same organizations who, in my opinion, are the ones currently posing the greatest threat to natural biodiversity by forcing the massive world wide conversion of agriculture to GMO mono-crops -against the will of many global citizens AND scientists. They talk and talk about their honorable intentions to do things like create drought tolerant crops for sub-Saharan Africa and at the same time, their main GM crops are still those that can withstand massive dousing of herbicides they themselves produce and profit from the sale of. John Robbins wrote a really good article challenging the claims that GMO’s are really being made for the benefit of mankind, I’ve shared it before, but I’ll post the link here.
Hopefully, the Svalbard Seed Vault really is what it claims to be: a nationality-neutral, non-corporate, apocalypse-proof storehouse for the world’s precious biodiversity. But what if “someone” -other than the various depositors- decides that they have some kind of ownership of (and access to) the material stored there? In the above noted TED Talk, director Cary Fowler mentions that most seed banks are in non-secure buildings in cities prone to the tides of meteorological and human activities (like the one that was destroyed in Baghdad when the US invaded). It might be a stretch, but if seeds are so important, why didn’t someone protect the Baghdad seed bank before it’s priceless contents were destroyed -by US bombs- leaving Svalbard, thousands of miles away, to be the only place that housed Baghdad’s copies of ancestral wheat seeds? In a country that is increasingly behaving as a Fascist Corpocracy, I don’t think it’s too outrageous a leap to make that in the future seed banks might become targets. (I have a friend who, after taking a research trip to Venezuela, told me that one of the reasons that that country was on the US enemies list was because they had quite specifically resisted Monsanto monopolization.)
Who is actually standing guard on that desolate Arctic island at the end of the earth making sure that this priceless genetic material is protected from the prying hands of corporate interest?