SciDev.Net

The race against time to bank the world’s threatened seeds

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Just over an hour’s drive from London, down winding lanes lined with oak and beech trees, lies a concrete and glass building housing scientists tasked with a Herculean mission — to safeguard the future of food. The Kew Millennium Seed Bank is the hub of a global conservation network that aims, by 2020, to store a quarter — or 75,000 — of the world’s plant species, with a particular focus on the most endangered, economically important and endemic. It is, as its director Jonas Mueller describes, “the biggest conservation project on earth”.

In this video, SciDev.Net swings open Kew’s doors to delve deep into the laboratories and icy bunkers of the seed bank and speak to the scientists entrusted with collecting and protecting the seeds. We find out how the seeds travel from forests, deserts and savannahs across the world to the United Kingdom, and why it is that global food security hinges on banking them. And we discover why, in the face of climate change and threats to food production, partnerships with seedbanks and institutes around the world are so crucial to training the botanists and agriculturalists of the future.

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