Arctic Doomsday Vault Withdrawal: First Ever Seed Removal Completed

The first ever doomsday vault withdrawal has been successfully completed. The seed bank, or gene bank, in the Arctic just released samples which had originally been kept in the civil war-torn nation of Syria.

The doomsday seed vault withdrawal involved sending thousands of seeds from the Arctic to Morocco and Lebanon, MSN reports. The gene bank was created on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in 2008. The island is about 800 miles from the North Pole, and is surrounded by soil which remains constantly frozen.

The seed bank samples would be preserved and viable for use for at least 200 years if the power grid failed and the doomsday vault lost access to electricity. The temperatures on Svalbard are reportedly superb for seed preservation in a power-grid-down scenario, USA Today reports.

Cary Fowler, the curator of the Arctic doomsday vault, said that the facility managers feel the seed collection in Syria has lost its ability to transport seeds to farmers if needed. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, plans to re-establish the seed bank in Lebanon and Morocco have been in the works for several months. The recently completed seed withdrawal marks the first time the vault has been opened since the facility was created almost eight years ago.

Gene banks and related organizations around the planet have deposited approximately 860,000 seed samples at the Global Seed Vault in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The Arctic doomsday seed vault was created as a backup to seed collections in various countries to help guard against starvation should either a massive natural or man-made disaster occur.

“Secret” shipments of approximately 38,000 seeds from the doomsday vault began the relocation process August. The quiet removal of the gene bank samples was reportedly undertaken for security purposes. Crates of seeds such as lentil, chickpea, barley, and wheat left from Norway and ultimately arrived at research stations in Morocco and Lebanon. The stations are operated by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

“It just shows that the global system of fail-safe backup works,” said Michael Koch, of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which funded the shipments. “We wanted to make sure that the publicity around this deposit is not taken by someone for different purposes.”

The gray concrete entrance to the massive complex on the outskirts of Longyearbyen, the main city in Svalbard, almost completely blends into the Arctic environment. The doomsday vault is situated on the side of a mountain, with a single door leading the rarely allowed visitor down a 120-meter-long (400-foot-long) tunnel into the mountain.


“Visitors see it as a James Bond kind of place, as extraordinary,” Koch added.

Several recent visitors to the Arctic doomsday vault include a handful of United States Senators and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Approximately two-thirds of the seed samples withdrawn from the vault are reportedly “unique varieties” of ancient seeds from from across Africa and the Middle East.

ICARDA will use the seeds to fulfill the request from crop diversity farmers, breeders, and researchers from around the globe. The agricultural experts will reportedly test the sample strains’ ability to cope with emerging diseases and the impact of climate change.

“We can get, through crossing and breeding, traits that are tolerant to drought, tolerant to heat, tolerant to specific diseases and so forth,” said ICARDA Director-General Mahmoud El-Solh.

The change in temperature and extensive travel route do not reportedly appear to have damaged the Arctic doomsday vault withdrawn seeds.

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