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Doomsday-proof vault in the Arctic receives a major deposit of seeds

Doomsday-proof vault in the Arctic receives a major deposit of seedsA frozen tundra is perhaps the worst place in the world to grow crops. But that didn't stop people from bringing nearly 50,000 seeds of potatoes, lentils, wheat, barley and other food staples to the Arctic Circle this week. The seeds won't be sprinkled across frozen farmlands. Instead, they'll be stored indefinitely at a global seed vault on Norway's Svalbard archipelago.  SEE ALSO: This vault filled with seeds in Norway could help bring Earth back from an apocalypse The vault is designed to safeguard the world's food sources from any variety of doomsday scenarios: nuclear war, climate change, natural disasters or even an asteroid strike. This week's seed deposit includes samples from seed collections in Benin, India, Pakistan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Belarus, the U.K., Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the United States and Mexico, Crop Trust announced on Wednesday. Marie Haga, executive director of Crop Trust, scans boxes of ICARDA's seeds at the Longyearbyen airport. Image: Andrea Gros, ICARDA Crop Trust is the charity organization helping to fund and manage the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which sits between mainland Norway and the North Pole and is operated by the Norwegian government. With the latest shipment, the seed vault now holds nearly 931,000 seed samples of just about every known crop in the world. The vault still has plenty of space left, with a total capacity for 4.5 million samples. "Collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong," Marie Haga, executive director of the Crop Trust, said Wednesday in a press release. "Crop diversity is a fundamental foundation for the end of hunger," she added. Opened in 2008, the Svalbard vault is designed to last 1,000 years. It also acts as an insurer for other seed collections by holding duplicate samples, which owners can withdraw as needed. This recently happened with a major gene-bank in Syria.  The International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), previously located in Aleppo, is working to develop drought- and heat-resistant crops. But the tragic, protracted Syrian civil war forced researchers to relocate to Morocco and Lebanon. ICARDA had been storing some of its seed inventories — sourced from around the Fertile Crescent — in the Arctic vault. In 2015, the team began withdrawing those samples so they could start planting seeds in their new fields, away from the fighting in Syria. Their efforts have been so successful that researchers are returning a portion of their seed samples to Svalbard for safekeeping. "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," Aly Abousabba, director general of ICARDA, said in the press release. BONUS: Quinoa is toast… here's why teff is the hottest new superfood




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