By the time the war broke out in Syria, researchers from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) had already duplicated and safely transported most of their genetic treasure trove to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, Norway. The ICARDA facility in Tel Hadia, just south of Aleppo, Syria, once stored the largest collection of crop diversity from the Fertile Crescent, one of the world’s earliest centers of agriculture. When the facility was abandoned in 2014, more than 80% of its collection was backed up in the Norwegian vault. “When the Arab Spring started, Syria was still considered a very secure and stable country, and then it became complete chaos, as we know,” Ola Westengen, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Life Science who was coordinator of operations and management at the Svalbard Global Seed Bank at the time of the seed rescue, told Mongabay. “[B]ut one should not give the impression that the seeds were somehow smuggled out or sent out in a clandestine way, everything was by the book.” The safe and peaceful transfer of the samples from Syria, despite extreme conditions, Westengen says, is a testament to how well the international system of gene banks is working. The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, a remote archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Photo by Subiet via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0). Westengen is the co-author of a newly published paper in the…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer