This is referred to as the Doomsday Vault and the seed bank, operated by the government of Norway and containing a seed for almost every crop known in the world, is meant to be a backup for humanity in case a catastrophe were to take place to devastate crops.
However, a natural disaster is not what caused scientists to dip into the vault for the first significant withdrawal. Instead, it was war, a man-made disaster that is very preventable.
The conflict in Syria that has waged on for over four years has left scientists in an important Aleppo gene bank where new drought strains, and new wheat that is heat resistant have been developed, unable to continue working over the past few years.
Now, with conditions inside Syria showing no sign of improving, scientists have started to recover their critical inventory of the seeds, sourced from the Fertile Crescent and more, that have been held in the vault beneath the ice in the Arctic.
The seeds have been planted at other facilities in Morocco and Lebanon allowing the scientists to resume important research that they have been carrying out for decades, far from the Aleppo barrel bombs.
The gene bank located in Aleppo is one of the world’s most important and includes over 135,000 varieties of fava beans, wheat, chickpea and lentil crops, along with the most valuable barley collection in the world.
The Aleppo center sent close to 80% of its samples and seeds to the vault in the Arctic in 2012 as a backup, with its final deposit just last year.
Now, the Aleppo team has a challenge of maintaining and reproducing one of the most important collections for humanity of food crop genetic lines.
Relocation to Lebanon opens a door to another vault on the Bekaa Valley campus where seeds it receives back from the vault in the Arctic are housed.