[NAFEX] Pavlovsk seed bank faces destruction
bob.bors at usask.ca
Tue Aug 31 20:34:47 EDT 2010
Thanks Dylan for that update,
Unfortunately, there is a bigger disaster around the corner for the whole
Vavilov network, especially in the fruit area.
Almost all the scientists maintaining fruit collections at the various
research stations are past retirement age. They are hanging onto their
grossly underpaid jobs in hopes that someday the government will pay a
salary high enough to interest young people to replace them. Just like
before when they starved to death they are once again hanging on hoping!
When they die off who will know what to do? Where will the expertise come
I had a visiting scientist from Vavilov visit me two years ago for a month
to go plant collecting and visit fruit breeding programs. So I had long
conversations on this topic.
He had a PhD and was in charge of all underutilized fruit crops and is a
curator in the Vavilov System. He had 1 technician who was about 70 years
old and no one else to help him! His wife was working at a drug store
drawing twice his salary! He was doing the field work. When he visited 2
years ago he told me about the desire of his superior for him to save the
fruit crops as seeds. He thought his superiors was an uninformed field crop
scientist, but he also considered it could be a grab for valuable land.
After visiting me he had to take on a part time job doing mowing and
landscaping at some rich person's estate to make ends meet. Now that that
collection may be destroyed, maybe the seed idea is better than nothing. But
it could be too late for that, I don't think it was ever done.
That article mentions as a justification that the collection and buildings
are neglected..well there is a reason that happened. No funding and no
personnel! It's not that people in the know thought there was nothing
important about the collection.
Dr. Bob Bors
Head of the Fruit Program
University of Saskatchewan, Plant Sciences Dept.
51 Campus Drive, Room 2C02
Saskatoon Saskatchewan, S7N 5A8
Fruit program website:
Phone 306-966-8583, Fax 306-966-5015
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From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of rob hamilton
Sent: August-30-10 8:37 PM
To: North American Fruit Explorers
Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Pavlovsk seed bank faces destruction
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From: dylanford <dylanford at optonline.net>
To: North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wed, August 11, 2010 8:51:57 PM
Subject: [NAFEX] Pavlovsk seed bank faces destruction
Pavlovsk seed bank faces destruction
'Priceless collection' in Russia was never registered so is therefore
worthless and does not officially exist, say developers
Twelve Russian scientists famously chose to starve to death rather than eat
the unique collection of seeds and plants
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/plants> they were protecting for
humanity during the 900-day siege of Leningrad in the second world war. But
the world's first global seed bank now faces destruction once more, to make
way for a private housing estate.
The fate of the Pavlovsk agricultural station outside St Petersburg will be
decided in the courts this week. If, as expected, the case goes against it
then the collection of plants built up over 85 years could be destroyed
At stake, say Russian and British campaigners for the station
<http://www.vir.nw.ru/AEPismo.htm> , is not just scientific history but one
of the world's largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, apples and
cherries. Pavlovsk contains more than 5,000 varieties of seeds and berries
from dozens of countries, including more than 100 varieties each of
gooseberries and raspberries.
More than 90% of the plants are found in no other research collection or
seed bank. Its seeds and berries are thought to possess traits that could be
crucial to maintaining productive fruit harvests in many parts of the world
as climate change and a rising tide of disease, pests and drought weaken the
varieties farmers now grow. As it is predominantly a field collection,
Pavlovsk cannot be moved. Experts estimate that even if another site were
available nearby, it would take many years to relocate the plants.
In what appears Kafkaesque logic, the property developers argue that because
the station contains a "priceless collection", no monetary value can be
assigned to it and so it is worthless. In another nod to Kafka, the
government's federal fund of residential real estate development has argued
that the collection was never registered and thus does not officially exist.
"It is a bitter irony that the single most deliberately destructive act
against crop diversity could be about to happen in the country that invented
the modern seed bank," said Cary Fowler, of the Global Crop
<http://www.croptrust.org/main/> Diversity Trust. "Russia
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/russia> taught the world about the
importance of crop collections for the future of agriculture. A decision to
destroy Pavlovsk would forever tarnish a cause that generations of Russian
plant scientists have lived and, quite literally, died, to protect."
The station was established in 1926 by Nikolai Vavilov, the man credited
with creating the idea of seed banks as repositories of plant diversity that
could be used to breed new varieties in response to threats to food
production. During the siege of Leningrad, 12 scientists chose to starve
while protecting the diversity amassed by Vavilov, even though the seeds of
rice, peas, corn and wheat that they were protecting could have sustained
them. Vavilov died of malnutrition in prison in 1943, having criticised the
anti-genetic concepts of Trofim Lysenko. But Russia has since elevated him
to hero status.
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