Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo: The Crop Trust
SYRIAN WAR PROMPTS
GLOBAL DOOMSDAY SEED
VAULT’S FIRST WITHDRAWAL
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) requested the first ever withdrawal from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2015. Although conflict had induced ICARDA to move its research facilities in 2012 from outside of Aleppo to other locations in the Region, staff staying behind protected the large collection of genetic material and continued to ship seeds internationally until this was no longer possible. ICARDA needed to regrow and multiply part of its collection in other locations.
The 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 which the collections of the CGIAR Centers held in trust for the world’s population, make up the lion share. The collections are buried deep within a mountain to be available should catastrophe ever strike.
“I was in awe, as I walked down the long corridor deep into the mountain carrying a box of seeds grown from species 1000s of years old. As I reached the perma-frost protected walls to the Vault the sensation of holding one of the world’s most priceless possessions in my hands was almost overwhelming. These seeds, I suddenly understood, will be essential to human survival in the decades and centuries to come.”
ICARDA Board Chair