August 23, 2010
The world’s richest and most extensive collection of plant life is being threatened by a group of Russian real estate developers.
Russia’s Pavlovsk Experiment Station is part of the N.I.Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry near St. Petersburg. The plant bank serves as a gigantic seed vault, cultivated over the last century, where tens of thousands of plant species from across the globe grow in a single environment.
The Experiment Station is the home to the world’s richest and most extensive collection of plant life, boasting more than 4,000 varieties of fruits and berries.
The collection includes apples from 35 countries; 1,000 varieties of strawberries from 40 countries; more than 100 varieties each of raspberries, cherries, and gooseberries; black currants from 30 countries; and plums from 12 countries among other crops — 90% of which are not found anywhere else on the planet.
A court decision on August 13th in Moscow ruled in favor of the Russian Federal Fund of Residential Real Estate Development.
This decision recognized the transfer of land on which the Pavlovsk Station is located to developers to be used for residential properties. The ruling was immediately appealed.
The Pavlovsk Station was granted one month’s time from the date of appeal before construction plans are further developed.
The ruling can be overturned via direct orders from the office of President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin. As such, concerned citizens across the globe are encouraged to speak out and support the importance of crop diversity and an 84-year-old field study in plant life by writing to, Tweeting, and signing petitions to Russia’s leaders.*
The livelihood of a single seed vault with genetically diverse and extremely rare varieties of crops is at the mercy of a dozen bulldozers.
As the planet undergoes climate change — and as new viruses and threats to crops develop each year — crop varieties dwindle.
The Station fosters the growth of seeds and plant variety, allowing for plant species of fruits and berries to adapt in an otherwise changing environment. Today, scientists relay on the role of seed banks and seed vaults in maintaining food production.
Bulldozing these planet varieties means eliminating them from the genetic pool crop breeders current work from.
The importance of the Station goes without saying…
The destruction of the tens of thousands of plants housed in the Experimental Station would essentially render these varieties extinct.
If the court rules in favor of the real estate developers, “the site will be cleared within three to four months, destroying an irreplaceable biological heritage,” says Station Director Fyodor Mikhovich.
In essence, we’re talking about the future of our food.
And in fact, the Station was founded in 1926 on this very premise…
The Pavlovsk Research Institute is named for Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian and Soviet botanist and geneticist who established the Pavlovsk Station. Vavilov’s life work was dedicated to the study and improvement of cereal crops that could sustain the global population.
Vavilov is perhaps best known for identifying the centers of origin of cultivated plants, which further extends to crop breeding and the domestication of plants. He also created the concept of seed banks.
This sounds like an obvious question, but I wondered, if the court rules in favor of the real estate developers, why the Institute couldn’t just be relocated…
Then I found my answer:
The site, which sits on many acres of now-prime land, cannot just be moved. It’s not seeds in a vault, but plants in the ground, tens of thousands of plants. Experts say it would take years to relocate them.
In the big picture, this case calls to attention the need for crop diversification in more than one place in the world. It does not seem logical to grow 90% of the plant varieties in the world in a single location.
Why are these species not available anywhere else in the world?
Farmers and plant breeders perhaps need to work in collaboration to achieve crop diversity across the globe, in order to prevent this level of threat to biodiversity.
Please let your voice be heard if you support the appeal and would like the Station to be preserved and protected.
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