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'Doomsday' Vault Just Made Its 1st 'Real-World Run'

It came much sooner than anyone would have imagined when the vault first opened
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2017 2:08 PM CST

(Newser) – Nearly 10 years after a "doomsday" seed vault opened on an Arctic island, some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world have been deposited in the world's largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops, reports the AP. A research center that focuses on improving agriculture in dry zones—the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, which was the first to retrieve its seed collection from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2015—on Wednesday returned some 15,000 specimens after multiplying and reconstituting them. That marks what Atlas Obscura calls the vault's "first real-world run"—which came much sooner than anyone would have imagined when the vault opened in 2008.

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The premature test run came in part due to the Syrian civil war, which Atlas Obscura notes forced ICARDA to move its headquarters from Aleppo to Beirut, and while its seed collections there survived, access in Aleppo became limited. Thus, it asked for the loan in September 2015; since then, it duplicated the seeds until it now has a complete set. The ICARDA collections range from India to the Middle East, northern Africa and the Americas, and include legumes and winter cereals. The vault, the world's largest agricultural gene bank located on the Svalbard archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, was built as a master backup to the world's other seed banks. (Read more Svalbard Global Seed Vault stories.)

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