Survival seed bank
A survival seed bank (or seedbank) is a collection of viable seeds for common grains, vegetables, herbs, and fruits; many survivalists maintain such banks so that they can feed themselves if an apocalyptic event occurs or if oppressive forces attempt to wipe out those species.
Seed banks in general are not unusual. For example, the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, "built as a bulwark against any natural or man made disaster," contains preserved seeds for half a million species. Many countries also have their own seed banks, which is a sensible precaution in a world with an uncertain future — diseases like wheat rust could put the survival of that species in serious jeopardy, so a safe way to restore it is always a good idea.
Survival seed banks are a little stranger. They spring from two primary fears:
- The fear that there will be a local or global disaster and collapse of the food supply.
- The fear that monopolistic corporations like Monsanto or a government agency will try to wipe out private strains of some species.
Fear of disaster
One purveyor says:
Recent events have seemed to support this idea as we witnessed natural disasters like the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chili[sic] and economic disasters that left the global markets in peril. With these events so fresh in our minds is it really impractical to prepare for an event that could affect the world's food supply.
Indeed, this is not impractical. However, paying $149 (plus shipping and handling) for these seeds is impractical. Naturally, even though there are thousands of seeds in the kit, the bulk of them are inexpensive seeds like yellow onion (1,000 seeds) or scarlet carrot (1,050 seeds) — as opposed to tomatoes (200 seeds) or squash (40 seeds). Still, a good argument can be made that the extravagant price is for packaging and convenience, and even if vendors were taking advantage of credulous consumers, that doesn't make the basic idea foolish. While it is a little far-fetched to imagine scenarios in which individuals will be forced to begin farming for themselves, it's not impossible and so no more outlandish for someone to buy a survival seed bank than any other item of survivalist paraphernalia.
Fear of corporate or government oppression
All commercial survival seed banks are stocked with heirloom seeds, or strains that have not been genetically modified. This is for the slightly paranoid reason that they believe that such seeds may either be very difficult to find in the future, or that they may be actually made illegal on behalf of a growing corporate power.
The most prominent (and only real) agribusiness threat is Monsanto, a former pharmaceutical company that produces several modified strains of "corn, cotton, oilseeds (soybeans and canola) and wheat, as well as small-acre crops such as vegetable seeds." In addition, they also produce the Roundup™ brand of herbicide, a highly effective product that eliminates weeds. On their own, neither product line is particularly sinister until you realize that only Monsanto high-yield products can reliably use Roundup — and further, that farmers must purchase Monsanto seeds every year, instead of sowing part of that year's crop. This effectively gives that corporation total control over large sections of the planting industry, and it is not an unreasonable worry that they might abuse that control someday (particularly since they are frequently under investigation) — or simply make a mistake that wipes out a year's yield of wheat. There is still an environmentalist reason to make GMO crops sterile in this way — to prevent "genetic pollution" in natural areas.
Given these grim circumstances, one might think people afraid of a corporate-backed destruction of heirloom seeds are simply playing it safe. But this ignores the fact that while farmers overwhelmingly use these high-yield biocrops, this is by choice. Unmodified versions of every species are widely and easily available, and it's hard to imagine that ever changing, given the staggering increase of the organic foods craze.
Heirloom and other non-hybrid seeds can be bought from many gardening shops and greenhouses, as well as by mail order, rather inexpensively.
One company, Survival Seed Bank, has been advertising a package of seeds for $149, particularly on WorldNetDaily and Glenn Beck's show. Several other packages are available at similar or lower prices from other companies and one website comparing these deals rates Survival Seed Bank as the worst deal ("Low Value, Good Variety, Low Package, Poor Service"), and also notes the company "Used To Be Rated F BBB, Now In Review. Fined By FTC for false weight-loss scam". They also note this about their shelf-life claim: "Claims 100 Years, probably 4-5 years"..
The same variety of heirloom seeds can be bought for around $30 if bought individually from a gardening shop or a mail order seed catalog.
Frozen zoos and arks
Frozen zoos are a type of cryo-preservation facility. The frozen ark is a facility by the Zoological Society of London, the Natural History Museum and University of Nottingham; it only gathers samples of DNA and living cells; while other frozen zoos collect sperm, eggs and embryos. Samples are taken from animals in zoos and those threatened with extinction in the wild; this is done in the hopes that some day, cloning technologies will have matured sufficiently to resurrect extinct species. There are less than a dozen frozen zoos worldwide.
- Value: $1.39
- "Frozen Zoo". Audubon Nature Institute. Retrieved 2010-04-28.