Health and environment
Health and environment

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Health and environment

4.5 The Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank Appeal

Cover from the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank Appeal leaflet.
Figure 6 Cover from the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank Appeal leaflet

Box 1 Extract from the leaflet for the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank Appeal

We're collecting for the sake of every species.

Over the next 50 years, a quarter of the world's seed-bearing plant species will face extinction. It's a terrifying thought, especially when the future of every species will then be put at risk – including ours.

We simply can't survive without plants. We need them for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the medicines we use to combat disease. Some give us natural insecticides, reducing the use of chemicals on crops; others have the ability to reclaim land lost to the desert.

In all, over 2501000 seed-bearing plants work together to make our world habitable and beautiful. With every species that disappears, part of the fabric of the planet crumbles; and priceless genetic information is lost forever.

Conservation saves lives.

An enormous seed collection programme has already begun. It's perhaps the most ambitious conservation project of its kind.

By the year 2000, we hope to have almost every native UK plant species safely stored in the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew – a specially designed facility at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. By 2010, we aim to have conserved living seeds from 10% of all plant species for the benefit of future generations.

Initially, attention will be focused on plants growing in arid areas like Africa, India and Latin America. These are the species most at risk – those on which a quarter of the world's human population depends.

Once in the Seed Bank, species can be kept for centuries or even millennia. They can be studied to discover their hidden potential, and reintroduced into the wild at any time.

One of the options given in the appeal leaflet (but not shown in the extract) for people who would like to help, is to leave a legacy. Elsewhere the reader is told that the names of benefactors recorded in the Millennium Seed Book will be, ‘on permanent display in the Seed Bank for posterity’.

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