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Osiris. 2005;20:161-79.

Plant breeding on the front: imperialism, war, and exploitation.

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  • 1Institute of the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.


This paper examines the development of plant-breeding science in the context of the booming genetic research and autarky policy of the 1930s as well as during World War II in National Socialist-occupied Europe. Soviet scientists, especially Nikolai Vavilov and his VIR institute, had a leading position in the international plant-breeding science of the 1920s. During World War II, German scientists, namely experts from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Plant Breeding, usurped Soviet institutes and valuable seed collections. In contrast, plant-breeding research in occupied Scandinavia continued with relatively little disturbance. The paper compares behavior of German, Soviet, and Norwegian plant-breeding scientists under the Nazi regime.

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