Slow Food has joined the protest against the planned destruction of Europe’s largest repository of rare berries and fruits, situated near to St Petersburg, to make way for a luxury residential development. In August, the Russian Supreme Court ruled to allow the sale of the land used by the Pavlovsk Experimental Station, a century-old field genebank that safeguards thousands of varieties of genetically diverse and rare species by growing them.
Since its establishment in 1926, the station's collection has grown steadily and today counts an incredible range of fruits including nearly 1,000 varieties of strawberries and more than 100 varieties each of gooseberry, raspberry and cherry. It is a very important collection as 90 % of the fruits are not included in any other research station or gene bank in the world and many of the varieties do not breed true from seed and therefore cannot be stored in a seed bank.
The ruling was appealed at once, and an international campaign lead by botanists and conservation groups is calling for Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to use their powers to override the court’s decision. Slow Food has joined 18,000 others thus far in signing an online petition but the fate of the station remains in limbo, with Medvedev announcing in September that the government would investigate the situation and expect to give their verdict in November. Due to technical issues and quarantine regulations, it would not be feasible to physically move the collection before the planned demolition date.
The planned destruction of the institute is sparking fears for future food security, directly threatened by a loss of crop biodiversity. “Seed banks like Pavlovsk provide breeders with the genetic stocks to create new varieties of plants that can adapt to certain diseases, climatic changes, and environmental conditions,” said Change.org’s Sustainable Food Editor Sarah Parsons. “Destroying Pavlovsk's thousands of unique varieties of plants basically renders these crops extinct, removing them from the genetic pool plant breeders can use.”
Click here to sign the petition and to send a letter to the Russian President