By Nick Robins-Early
22 September 2015
(The Huffington Post) – The doomsday seed vault on Norway's remote Svalbard archipelago houses the world's back up supply of seeds to ensure crop diversity. It contains deposits of nearly 865,000 varieties of seeds buried within a mountain in case of catastrophe. Due to Syria's civil war, it will now allow a withdrawal of its contents for the first time in its existence.
The request to take out a small amount of the millions of total seeds from within the Svalbard Global Seed Vault comes from another gene bank, the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, which is currently based in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, but was previously headquartered in Syria.
One reason gene banks exist is to provide breeders, scientists and farmers with seed varieties to improve crop growth and yields in the face of changing climates. Amid Syria's brutal civil war, however, ICARDA has struggled to provide this function. […]
The vault was established in 2008, and is built to survive rising sea levels, power outages and other calamities that could affect the seeds. Its main storage area is kept well below freezing to preserve the contents, and it can hold 4.5 million varieties.
"There are seeds in the vault that have originated from nearly if not every single country," Lainoff says. "It really is kind of the only example of true international cooperation. There's seeds sitting on the same shelf from North Korea and South Korea, and they get along just fine up there." [more]