Ancient genes will soon be available to researchers again, but the move poses its own challenges.
A major seed bank in Aleppo, Syria, holds genes that might help researchers breed crops to survive climate change. But the conflict tearing the country apart has rendered the bank largely inaccessible for the past four years. Now an effort to duplicate its seed collection at more-accessible locations is ramping up.
On 29 September, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which runs the bank in Aleppo, officially launched a sister bank in Terbol, Lebanon, which now hosts 30,000 duplicates. Together with a new bank in Rabat, Morocco, it will make thousands of seeds available to researchers.
“The situation in Syria did not allow us to continue our core activities,” says Ahmed Amri, head of genetic resources at ICARDA’s research station in Rabat. “I’m happy that we [ICARDA] have established ourselves back to normal.”