”As Nazis stormed Leningrad in 1941 and cut off food supplies, a team of scientists defended their laboratory deep in the city, boarding doors and windows to bar soldiers and starving citizens from entry. Their protected treasure was a collection of over 200,000 seeds gathered by Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov, who had traveled over five continents to collect samples from local farmers. The seeds would have offered temporary relief for the rampant hunger during the siege, but the team refused to release them to the city. Several scientists starved to death during the defense. Vavilov joined their fate two years later while in prison.
Why did Vavilov and his group of scientists choose death over the sacrifice of a seed collection? They believed that understanding the genetic diversity hidden within those tiny capsules of life was the key to ending worldwide hunger.”