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Strawberry Fields Face Threat of Destruction

Published: July 16, 2010 (Issue # 1592)


Russian property developers are preparing to destroy the world’s largest and most valuable field collection of genetically diverse fruits and berries — including almost 1,000 types of strawberries from 40 countries — from which commercially grown varieties are derived.

The site, which belongs to the Vavilov Horticultural Research Institute, is home to more than 4,000 varieties of fruits and berries, some of which have become extinct in their natural environments. It now looks set to be used for the construction of holiday homes.

Developers received access to the site when the St. Petersburg Horticulture Institute lost the land following the rejection of an appeal against a decree of the Russian Ministry for Economic Development in Moscow’s Arbitration Court earlier this week.

Experts say the Pavlosk Research station, comprising 910,000 square meters, is the largest genetic field bank in Europe. According to Mikhovich, just one of the plots of land at the site contains more than 5,000 samples of rare plants from all over the globe.

Moscow’s Arbitration Court ruled that the institute must hand the land over to the Residential Construction Development Fund. The institute’s acting director at the facility, Fyodor Mikhovich, said the task of transferring the specimen would be impossible, even if they were given three years instead of the three months that they have been granted for the task. He said that the consequences of the move would be devastating, and that in order to properly carry out the move at least 15 years would be needed.

The institute has stressed that the research conducted at the facility is of great use in research into the treatment of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The institute has filed another appeal against the verdict, but analysts says its chances are poor. The court hearing that will decide the fate of the land is scheduled for Aug. 11. Researchers and environmentalists alike are campaigning around the globe, urging influential organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, to intervene at the highest level and halt the destruction of the Pavlosk collection.

In December 2009, the Russian Ministry for Economic Development issued a decree ordering the institute to vacate the land on the grounds that the fields are allegedly not economically viable and are hampering the economic development of the region.

“The real issue is that the monetary value of the collection is impossible to define,” Mikhovich said. “Who on earth can tell what the value of a specific unique sample of a plant or a berry is? And we have large numbers of them. This makes the collection priceless, but doesn’t help us to win trials, where decisions are based on precise calculations.”

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the club’s website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the club’s merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at today’s Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Women’s Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the city’s international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their “Industrial St. Petersburg” Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the “Business With China” forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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