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Syria War Spurs Opening of 'Doomsday' Arctic Seed Vault

Syria War Spurs Opening of 'Doomsday' Arctic Seed Vault

As the civil war in Syria escalates, one city looks towards the future of food security in the Middle East

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, meant to act as a "doomsday" seed bank to preserve global biodiversity, will withdraw the first seeds from the vault in order to replace seeds in a gene bank near the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Syrian civil war, now in it's fourth year, has displaced 11 million citizens and devastated entire farming regions. However, despite the conflict, the Aleppo seed bank is still partially functioning though many seeds have been destroyed.  Researchers in the Middle East with the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) requested replacements seeds, including wheat, barley and grasses suited to dry regions. ICARDA wants almost 130 boxes out of 325 it had deposited in the vault. Aljazeera reports, "Many seeds from the Aleppo collection have traits resistant to drought, which could help breed crops to withstand climate change in dry areas from Australia to Africa."

"Protecting the world's biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," Brian Lainoff, a spokesman for the Crop Trust, which runs the underground storage on a Norwegian island 1,300km from the North Pole, told Reuters.

The Crop Trust website expands on the intention of the global seed vault, "Worldwide, more than 1,700 genebanks hold collections of food crops for safekeeping, yet many of these are vulnerable, exposed not only to natural catastrophes and war, but also to avoidable disasters, such as lack of funding or poor management. Something as mundane as a poorly functioning freezer can ruin an entire collection. And the loss of a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of a dinosaur, animal or any form of life."

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