Amidst the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the wholesale slaughter of civilians and the use of sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war, it seems like a small thing, but it's the sort of small thing which will have global repercussions... I mean, the destruction of Ukraine's agricultural capacity.
Ukraine is traditionally known as the Breadbasket of Europe, and is the third largest exporter of grain in the world. It is also a major producer of sunflower oil and potatoes. Countries in the Middle East and Africa are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity due to the war's prevention of agricultural activity in Ukraine. Invading a major food producer and exporter on the cusp of planting season is a particularly horrifying act of aggression.
Via Tengrain, we have a tale of a more subtle horror, the destruction of Ukraine's National Gene Bank of Plants. This facility, in Karkhiv, preserved over one-hundred and sixty thousand varieties of seeds, some of them valuable hybrids, others not extant anywhere else in Europe. The maintenance of genetic diversity among crops is crucial in this age of monocultures, emergent pathogens, and climate change. A lack of diversity among our crops leaves us vulnerable to blights which can wipe out genetically narrow populations. Maintaining diversity also allows agronomists to determine whether certain plant varieties, perhaps regional heirloom landraces, are better suited to changing climatic conditions. The loss of 160,000 varieties of plants, while not as gut-wrenching as the murder of one civilian, is the sort of slow-creeping horror which becomes apparent on deeper contemplation.