Deep beyond the rim of the Arctic Circle on a Norwegian archipelago the Svalbard Global Seed Vault stands rimmed in hoar frost and surrounded by permafrost. The vault, which holds roughly 860,000 and 4,000 plant species seeds from nearly every country on Earth, is a safeguard against climate change and major planet transformations. Even if Earth lost electrical power, the seeds stored within the vault could survive two centuries minimum.
The fact the vault needed to be opened by The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (or ICARDA) is concerning. Is global warming affecting how our reserve seed inventory is managed? The center relocated from Syria to Beirut in 2012 due to conflict in the region. They now have requested 130 boxes of the originally stored 325 boxes of seeds stored in the vault. ICARDA needed these samples as part of its ongoing role of growing seeds and distributing them throughout the world to various nations.
ICARDA’s mission partly focuses on researching and cultivating plants that are able to adapt to shifting climate patterns most importantly in dry areas of Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Over 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface is classified under dry regions and 2.5 billion people reside in these areas. The Syrian conflict interrupted the center’s critical and important work.
Many of the world’s first grains and cereals are believed to have derived from the Levant in Syria widely considered a cradle of civilization now besieged by intense conflict and mass exodus.