Syria’s seedbank seeds sent for safety to Morocco

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Whenever I read the news about Syria’s refugee and environmental crisis I wonder how Syria’s dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s wife Asma al-Assad, once so vocal about the natural environment (even biking to the West Bank in the past), can let her husband keep this madness up.

A little sanity in the craziness that is and has been Syria:

Precious seeds that had originally been sent by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) for safeguarding in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle were safely delivered to Morocco and Lebanon today.

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The seeds originally stored at ICARDA’s genebank in Aleppo, Syria, had become increasingly difficult to access.

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While the seed cold store is still operational in Syria, the seed retrieval from Svalbard (above) was initiated by ICARDA in partnership with Crop Trust to continue with the service of distributing seeds to users around the world – a vital aspect of ICARDA’s genebank function and role in world food security.

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ICARDA routinely distributes around 25,000 samples every year to partners and outside agricultural organizations.

These seeds could hold the key to developing new crop varieties crucial to meeting world food demands with climate change.

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The seeds in ICARDA’s care are a globally important collection with 65 percent as unique landraces and wild relatives of cereals, legumes and forages. These ancient varieties have developed naturally robust genes from thousands of years of survival, adaptation and evolution – a valuable resource for building climate resilience in crops.

The shipment, landing in Rabat and Beirut this week, contained a total of 128 boxes with roughly 38,000 seed samples of forages such as faba beans, lathyrus, wild relatives of cereals and pulses, and cultivated wheat, barley, lentil and chickpea.

With Svalbard mission successfully completed, each sample will be planted and grown at ICARDA’s facilities to multiply seeds and replenish its active seed stock for distribution and also to return a portion back to the Seed Vault for safekeeping.

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