Thanks to the efforts of the Icarda’s genebank team in Aleppo (Syria) almost 100% of one the most important biodiversity collections have been safely duplicated in other countries like Norway. These scientists have risked their lives in one of most unfairness wars to save a part of our culture, one that we all depend upon! Icarda’s genebank represented one of our most precious treasures since they were preserving seeds that have sustained humanity for millennia.
Syria was once part of what we know as the “fertile crescent”, where humanity first learned agriculture. The biodiversity and the genes that our ancestors so valued, breeding them into the viable crops that we have today represent the genetic wealth of humanity. Major crops like wheat, rice, and maize are vital to humanity and the ancestors of these crops contain genetic traits that could counteract emerging diseases. Mahmoud Solh, director general of Icarda, said that “The role of gene collection in preserving crop biodiversity and ensuring future food supply has become particularly important as climate change poses a serious threat to crops and food security in the developing world”.
This is even more important as global agriculture focus more in monocultures, increasing a narrow range of varieties where the biodiversity genetic pool becomes shallower. Older varieties, not so beautiful, are given up and with them, useful genes that might be the key to preserve biodiversity, and ultimately our own survival.