"Doomsday" Arctic Seed Vault Tapped For First Time In History As Syrian Civil War Threatens Biodiversity
With Russian boots officially on the ground at Latakia and with rumors circulating that the PLA may arrive within weeks, Syria has officially replaced eastern Ukraine as the most likely theatre for the start of World War 3.
While we certainly hope that cooler heads will prevail, the determination on the part of Washington, Riyadh, and Doha to oust the Assad regime simply isn’t compatible with Tehran and Moscow’s efforts to preserve the existing global balance of power which means that something will ultimately have to give and if it becomes clear that Iran is set to benefit in any way from whatever the outcome ends up being, expect Benjamin Netanyahu to make another trip to The Kremlin, only next time, he won’t be so cordial.
For those who - much like a certain CIA “strategic asset” - are looking for signs that Syria’s four-year old, bloody civil war might mark the beginning of the apocalypse, look no further than the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which was tapped for first time in history in response to the uncertain future of Aleppo. Here’s Reuters:
Syria's civil war has prompted the first withdrawal of seeds from a "doomsday" vault built in an Arctic mountainside to safeguard global food supplies, officials said on Monday.
The seeds, including samples of wheat, barley and grasses suited to dry regions, have been requested by researchers elsewhere in the Middle East to replace seeds in a gene bank near the Syrian city of Aleppo that has been damaged by the war.
"Protecting the world's biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," said Brian Lainoff, a spokesman for the Crop Trust, which runs the underground storage on a Norwegian island 1,300 km (800 miles) from the North Pole.
The vault, which opened on the Svalbard archipelago in 2008, is designed to protect crop seeds - such as beans, rice and wheat - against the worst cataclysms of nuclear war or disease.
It has more than 860,000 samples, from almost all nations. Even if the power were to fail, the vault would stay frozen and sealed for at least 200 years.
The Aleppo seed bank has kept partly functioning, including a cold storage, despite the conflict. But it was no longer able to maintain its role as a hub to grow seeds and distribute them to other nations, mainly in the Middle East.
In other words, the violence in and around Aleppo now poses a threat to global food supplies by curtailing the production of seeds for drought-resistant crops.
As far-fetched as that might sound on the surface, the threat is apparently real enough to have prompted the first withdrawal in history from a seed bank built into the side of a frozen mountain. Here's more on the Svalbard "doomsday" vault from the official website:
Worldwide, more than 1,700 genebanks hold collections of food crops for safekeeping, yet many of these are vulnerable, exposed not only to natural catastrophes and war, but also to avoidable disasters, such as lack of funding or poor management. Something as mundane as a poorly functioning freezer can ruin an entire collection. And the loss of a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of a dinosaur, animal or any form of life.
Remote by any standards, Svalbard’s airport is in fact the northernmost point in the world to be serviced by scheduled flights – usually one a day. Its remoteness enhances the security of the facility, yet local infrastructure in the nearby small Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen is excellent. The Vault is thus accessible, and seeds can easily be transported to and retrieved from Svalbard.
The Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops. Each variety will contain on average 500 seeds, so a maximum of 2.5 billion seeds may be stored in the Vault.
Currently, the Vault holds more than 860,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world. Ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato. In fact, the Vault already holds the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world.
The focus of the Vault is to safeguard as much of the world’s unique crop genetic material as possible, while also avoiding unnecessary duplication. It will take some years to assemble because some genebanks need to multiply stocks of seed first, and other seeds need regenerating before they can be shipped to Svalbard.
A temperature of -18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds, which are stored and sealed in custom made three-ply foil packages. The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault. The low temperature and moisture levels inside the Vault ensure low metabolic activity, keeping the seeds viable for long periods of time.
And here's a look at the outside and inside of the repository that would be tapped in the event a cataclysm threatens global food supplies: