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50,000 New Seeds Deposited To Arctic 'Doomsday' Vault To Safeguard Against War, Natural Disasters

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Around 50,000 seed samples were deposited into the world's largest seed depository that was built to protect the world's plant species and food sources in case of wars or natural disasters. Some of the newly deposited specimens into the Svalbard Seed Bank were simply returned after an unexpected withdrawal in 2015.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located in the Arctic over 600 miles from the North Pole in the Svalbard archipelago. It was built underground in permafrost zone as a master backup plan in case of warfare or natural disasters that could wipe out the world's food sources.

When it was opened in 2008 by the Norwegian Government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, it was meant to be a global deposit box for the world's seeds. Being located underground in the freezing Arctic, the idea was that in case of any natural disaster or warfare that could severely deplete world food sources, the Svalbard Seed Vault will be there to provide a restart for the world's crops.

With other seed banks across the globe, the Svalbard Seed Vault was supposed to be the final backup plan when all else fails. However, what started as a vault for distant disasters came in handy less than ten years after it was built, proving that it was built right at the perfect time.

Early Withdrawal

With the mounting unrest in their original headquarters in Aleppo, Syria, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was forced to move to Beirut in 2012. However, as the civil war ensued, scientists had a difficult time in retrieving the seeds in their own Syrian vault. Because of this, ICARDA withdrew the initial deposit that they made to the vault in 2008 to aid their new headquarters in Beirut.

The scientists of ICARDA worked on these seeds for 17 months, duplicating and distributing them until they were able to once again complete their set. On Feb. 22, the ICARDA deposited over 15,000 specimens along with seeds from Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, the United States, and Britain. The newly deposited seeds include major food sources such as chickpea, lentil, rice, and wheat.

"We are demonstrating today that we can rely on our gene banks and their safety duplications, despite adverse circumstances, so we can get one step closer to a food-secure world," said Aly Abousabaa, director general of ICARDA.

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