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Strawberry Fields Face Threat of Destruction

Published: July 16, 2010 (Issue # 1592)


Russian property developers are preparing to destroy the worlds 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 Moscows 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.

Moscows Arbitration Court ruled that the institute must hand the land over to the Residential Construction Development Fund. The institutes 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 doesnt help us to win trials, where decisions are based on precise calculations.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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