Skip to content

The hard part about scientific articles is that most of them are pay-to-play, and therefore hard to share; it's easier to share reports from UN agencies and nonprofit institutions. Therefore, if you want to learn everything there is to know about biodiversity and health, look no farther than a 2015 report done by UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), and the WHO (World Health Organization).

(Just a picture of the cover - the link is below)

The report is massive - 364 pages - but provides a solid base of knowledge. Considering that my research is focused on nutrition and agrobiodiversity, I focused on the sixth chapter.

For those of you who aren't convinced, this is a great place to start looking into the importance of biodiversity not just to human health but also for the planet as a whole.

Here's the link to the complete report:

Nikolai Vavilov (1887-1943) was one of the founding scientists to champion agrobiodiversity; he was a Russian seed collector and scientist, and with his colleagues traveled much of the world looking for the genetic epicenters of different crops. Vavilov determined that there were eight ‘centers of origin’ for agrobiodiversity, which is illustrated in this diagram:

Sourced from: , Accessed 21 April 2019

Vavilov’s contribution to agriculture is astronomical, and his seed vault is still in operation today, now known as the Pavlovsk Experimental Station. (Much of what is available on the internet about the Station is from 2010, when its existence was threatened by real estate developers, but Wikipedia says that in 2012, the Russian government formally protected it.)

Vavilov, however, was living in an incendiary time in Russia; the Siege of Leningrad saw 28 of his colleagues starve to death rather than eat any of the specimens in the seed vault. Vavilov himself was condemned by the Russian government because Stalin identified with another scientist’s theories; Vavilov was brutally and extensively interrogated, sentenced to prison, and died of starvation behind bars. Vavilov didn’t back down on the strength of his convictions, which is good for the world, considering that his seed vault has gone on to save the lives of millions in the face of crop collapses.

This is all to say that agrobiodiversity is vitally important; it serves as a safeguard in case diseases or pests destroy crops, a manifestation of culture, and a source of varying and nutritious foods. Vavilov and his colleagues may have made the ultimate sacrifice, but it was in the noblest of causes.

The research I will conduct will not be so fraught with peril – but it’s good to start a blog with a bang.

This song was written about the scientists in the vault during the Siege of Leningrad.