Unique Syrian Crops Saved by Arctic Bank

Syrian crops saved from extinction by Arctic seed bank

Seeds sent to the Arctic for safekeeping will be returned for planting in Morocco and Lebanon. 

The International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas has been banking seeds from important crops that are particularly well-suited to farming in dry areas, but when its research farm was occupied by Syrian rebels it decided the best way to save its seed bank was to send the seeds to the Arctic for safekeeping. Now it says they’re ready to have them back for planting.

According to The Local, in 2012 the The International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas' research farm in Aleppo was occupied by rebel groups in the early part of the Syrian civil war. The bank held well over 100,000 varieties of seeds that were well adapted to growing in very dry regions. When the farm was occupied, organizers were luckily able to send duplicates of its holdings to the Svarlbard Global Seed Vault, an Arctic seed vault in Norway that holds over 860,000 seed samples from around the world.

Now some of the seeds will be sent back for re-planting in  Morocco and Lebanon.

"I don't think they're getting back into Syria any time soon, so they're going to re-establish that gene bank centre now in two locations: in Morocco and Lebanon," said Cary Fowler, founder of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

This is the first time seeds banked in Svalbard have been removed for re-planting and harvesting. Once the new plants are growing, more seeds will be gathered and sent back to Svalbard as a back-up.


“This shows why it is so important to have a global seed bank like this, as a back-up when things occur in the world, and when there is a risk that important germs may be lost," said Norway's agriculture minister Sylvi Listhaug.