Hidden away in a ‘seedy’ part of the Arctic, an international transaction of huge importance occurred on Wednesday. No money was moved, instead there was a massive haul of seeds for storage in a vault designed to protect them in case of global catastrophe.
The recent deposit to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault consisted of 50,000 seeds from several countries around the world including the US, Britain, and Pakistan. The area was chosen due to its lack of tectonic activity and permafrost, allowing for efficient storage of the seeds in temperatures below freezing.
“Together, the nations that have deposited their seed collections account for over a quarter of the world’s population,” Marie Haga, Executive Director of Crop Trust, the organization behind the vault, said in a statement.
Around 15,000 of the seeds came from the International Center for Agricultural Research (ICARDA), who were forced to ‘borrow’ from Svalbard three years ago when they could not access their own seed bank in Aleppo, Syria due to fighting in the area.
First UK deposit at Svalbard Global Seed Vault, true potato seed from The James Hutton Institute, Dundee. pic.twitter.com/TUDSOfWVeh
— Jane Robertson (@tannochbrae2) February 23, 2017
ICARDA focuses on improving agriculture in dry zones, including Africa and the Middle East. Potato, sorghum, rice, barley, chickpea, lentil, and wheat were among the seeds borrowed, according to Phys.org. They have since been relocated to Lebanon and Morocco.
— CECHR (@CECHR_UoD) February 14, 2017
Located under the snow in the remote Arctic on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is intended to operate as a master backup to seed banks around the world in case of catastrophe. Built to house 4.5 million seeds, it currently holds just under a million, which it can store safely for hundreds of years.
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