The Syrian civil war has resulted in the first withdrawal from the Arctic Doomsday Vault. The vault is a seed storage unit that was built on an island between North Pole and Norway with the intent of safeguarding world’s food supply in case of a global catastrophe; outbreak of a disease or a nuclear war.
Researchers in the Middle East have requested for withdrawal of a variety of crop seeds that are drought-resistant and include barley, wheat and grasses. Usually these seeds would be provided from a facility in Aleppo, Syria, however, despite the seeds being there in cold storage and safe, the scientists can’t access them because of the damage that the surrounding buildings have taken because of war.
The Doomsday Vault was built at Svalbard archipelago into the side of a frozen mountain back in 2008 and was designed to ensure that the crucial crop seeds remain safe and ready to replant. Without power, the vault is still capable of remaining frozen and locked for 200 years.
The request has been put forward by the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) that was originally setup in Aleppo. In 2012, the Center was moved to Beirut in Lebanon for keeping it safe from conflicts, however, it doesn’t have access to its own stash of seeds and has therefore requested for withdrawal of 130 boxes out of the 325 boxes that they had submitted to the vault before the war broke.
The organization that is in charge of running the vault, Crop Trust, has stated that as soon as the necessary paperwork is complete, the request shall be carried out. According to organization’s spokesperson, Brian Lainoff, “Protecting the world’s biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.”
The vault sports more than 860,000 seed samples from all countries and this withdrawal will result in taking out of 116,000 samples, however, since new deposits are made to the vault every year, this withdrawal won’t result in the vault running out of seeds.
Here’s to hoping that ICARDA is able to make good use of these seeds.