Monday, August 9, 2010

As crops wither in Russia’s severe drought, vital plant field bank faces demolition

Science Daily: As the fate of Europe's largest collection of fruit and berries hangs in the balance of a Russian court decision, the Global Crop Diversity Trust issued an urgent appeal for the Russian government to embrace its heroic tradition as protector of the world's crop diversity and halt the planned destruction of an incredibly valuable crop collection near St. Petersburg.

Pavlovsk Experiment Station is the largest European field genebank for fruits and berries, and is part of the N.I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry, where Russian scientists famously starved to death rather than eat the seeds under their protection during the 900-day siege of Leningrad during World War II.

At issue is an effort by residential real estate developers to build houses on land occupied by Pavlovsk Station. The take-over would involve bulldozing Pavlovsk's field collections amassed over the last century -- collections that contain thousands of varieties of apples, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, currants and other crops -- 90 percent of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

"It is a bitter irony that the single most deliberately destructive act against crop diversity, at least in my lifetime, could be about to happen in Russia of all places -- the country that invented the modern seed bank," said Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which aims to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide and supports the operations of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle.

The fate of the Pavlovsk Station is now in the hands of the courts, and the case is due to be heard on August 11th. If, as feared, the court rules in favor of the property developers, and the Russian government does not intervene, Fyodor Mikhovich, the director of the station, predicts bulldozers will be on-site within three to four months, and then, in a few days, destroy almost a century of work and an irreplaceable biological heritage….

Sorbus aucuparia with berries. Moscow region, Russia. Shot by Bff, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: