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A Noah's Ark for Earth's Seeds

Cary Fowler is the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, based in Rome.
Cary Fowler is the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, based in Rome.

Norway has launched a unique construction project on the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard, halfway between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. It's an underground vault for agricultural seeds, a kind of Noah's Ark for millions of varieties of wheat, rice, and hundreds of other crops that farmers no longer plant in their fields.

For a soft-spoken man from western Tennessee named Cary Fowler, it's the culmination of a lifelong -- and controversial -- campaign.

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Dan Charles is an independent writer and radio producer who contributes regularly to NPR's technology coverage. He is currently filling in temporarily as an editor on the National Desk, responsible for coverage of the environment and the western United States. He is author of Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare (Ecco, 2005). He also wrote Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food (Perseus, 2001), about the making of genetically engineered crops. From 1993 to 1999, Charles was a technology correspondent for NPR. Charles covers a wide swath of advanced technology, including telecommunications, energy, agriculture, computers, and biotechnology. He's reported for NPR from India, Russia, Mexico, and various parts of Western Europe. Before joining NPR, Charles was a U.S. correspondent for New Scientist, a major British science magazine.
Dan Charles is NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.