N.I.Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources

N.I.Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources (VIR)


    The destiny of the Vavilov`s collection is still vague. The Russian president instruction for the Pavlovsk issue to be scrutinized given one year ago was not carried out. Thus, as it became known to “Fontanka”, some deputies launched an initiative to prepare an exit meeting with participation of the top State representatives of Russia – Prime-minister and President. Obviously to determine whether plants on 90ha Pavlovsk land are present or not can be done only by this way. At any rate four expert commissions didn`t reach a consensus so far.

    The next commission established by the State Duma and the Ministry of Agriculture visited both Pavlovsk experiment station and the Institute of Plant Industry in the middle of August. “I decided to make sure once again that the collection is intact and didn`t disappear”, – reported the Deputy of the State Duma Nadezhda Shkolkina earlier responsible for the agrarian sector at the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. “Now I can start organizing a high level meeting. It seems the problem cannot be solved elsewise.

    In the long run the issue of plant genetic resources preservation is a State task, thus I don`t see it out of the ordinary, if the President or Prime-minister intervene directly into this issue - says Shkolkina. If we want to develop new technologies, we cannot do without plant genetic resources collections. How can we talk about biotechnologies and innovations, if we destroy our strategic supplies necessary for their establishment. The destiny of the Pavlovsk station - it not about to save a single collection, it`s about choosing a direction for the whole country: whether we fall back or move ahead.

    As “Fontanka” has already reported, Viktor Zubkov stressed in his saying during the April visit to the Vavilov`s Institute a need for a law on plant genetic resources. “Amendments to the legislation let us preserve these unique plants which are working for the future”, – he reported. At the same time he promised the decision on the Pavlovsk station`s fate will be taken in May-June and “in any case interests of science will come first”.

    But as Shkolkina reports, despite we approached the end of August, there is no decision yet. Let`s remind you, in December 2009 the State Property Agency conveyed land plots of the Pavlovsk Experiment Station to the Russian Housing Development Foundation (RZHS). Decision on land conveyance was approved on the highest level. The order was signed by: the First Deputy Head of the Russian Government Igor Shuvalov, the Depury Head of the Government Alexander Zhukov, the President Assistant Arkady Dvorkovich, the Deputy Head of the Budget and Taxes Committee of the State Duma Alexander Kogan, the Minister of the Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina, the Minister of the Regional Development Viktor Basargin, the Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov, a number of Deputy Ministers and other high rank officials. Scientists arguing to prove the presence of invaluable plant collection established by Nikolay Vavilov didn`t succeed – following the conclusion of the commission of the State Property Agency there was no collection on the disputed territory.

    The Institute was trying to protect its rights for land in the court, but lost all the actons. So the RZHS auctioned one of two disputed plots – the tender was scheduled on the 23th of September 2010. But an International scientific community, Russian scientists, Public Chamber and a number of State Duma deputies stand up for Vavilov`s collection. Two weeks before the auction on the 13th of June Dmitry Medvedev twitted in his account an instruction for this issue to be scrutinized - the auction was cancelled and a moratorium on land sales was set up.

    After the instruction had been given almost one year passed. In course of this period four commissions visited the Station, but they didn`t manage to reach a consensus. The first commission was sanctioned by the Accounts Chamber – the main complaint of this State body was that the collection has no legal status, thus it cannot be recognized as present.

    In October 2010 a conclusion of the joint expert commission under the Russian Academy of Science became known: scientists concluded the unique collection of the Pavlovsk station should be preserved as well as the Station itself. But on the other hand experts expressed their wish to change a leadership of the Station which to their opinion brought plants to such a horrible condition. However they paid a tribute to the RZHS – the conclusion says a part of lands can be conveyed for housing construction on the assumption the collection “will be adjusted to the landscape”. The next visit was paid by the commission of the Ministry of Agriculture. Its members clearly reported: “Any housing construction on these lands will ruin the collection”.

    In order to develop a common conclusion, a fourth joint expert commission headed by the RZHS was established. The expertise has been conducted from April into June. The outcome should have been reported according to the Director of the Department for Agroindustry Igor Rudennot later than 10th of August. However the conclusion taken by the experts hasn`t been published anywhere yet.

     “I don`t understand what is happening”, – says VIR`s Director General Nikolay Dzuybenko, - “I am a member of this commission but don`t know anything: where is that conclusion, who made it?” Our requests remained unanswered. The acting Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Agriculture Science and a member of the expert group Ivan Savchenko, the Deputy of the State Duma Nadezhda Shkolkina have no idea about that as well.

    You see, it`s not about 90ha of lands, - a source at the Public Chamber is dwelling on the topic, - these plots are of course attractive, but not so much as to go into such a big confrontation. The problem is that the conveyance of lands was sanctioned by people of a high rank including those who is responsible for the development of the Russian science. To play this situation back means for them to lose their face. It`s no doubt, if all attempts to prove the presence of the collection fail, the conclusion will be delayed to the bitter end.

    Meanwhile, as Shkolkina reports, not only the Pavlovsk Experiment Station but also 11 other trial plots belonging to VIR are at hazard. At the moment 183ha of lands of the Far-East Experiment Station are ready to be conveyed to the RZHS for housing construction - to protect lands activists of the opposition have already expressed their say just before the election. Not only VIR lands are being encroached upon, - the Deputy reports, - lands of the Kirovsk Experiment Station have been already taken for housing construction, a plot of 400ha was cut off from the Nizhegorodskaya Experiment Station for private cottages. We have about 300 botanical gardens and arboretums in the country. All of them are located in very attractive places equipped with necessary utility lines. It`s quite natural they attract real estate developers.

     “According to our legislation we can protect only lands”, - explains Shkolkina, - “legally there are no plant collections in Russia – the law is missing this term. Only a collection of drawing or objects of art can be recognized as collection, but as far as scientific collections are concerned – they are not mentioned in our legislation. Until amendments are introduced into the legislation, all the botanical collections will be endangered”.

    However the law on plant genetic resources initiated by Zubkov still remains unapproved. It was returned for further editing, as the Ministry of Justice disclosed a corruption constituency in its text. “It was offered to divide all the botanical collections into three groups, - so initiators of the law, - that is the main obstacle. But the Ministry considers the classification criteria are rather vague giving an opportunity for misuse. The authors of the law hope for the best and believe the draft law will be approved by the State Duma in course of the autumn session.

    VIR`s leadership hopes the solution will be found. A number of State Duma representatives are sharing a common opinion with scientists. “I cannot say the President instruction for this issue to be scrutinized is not being conducted. It is, but too slow”, - Shkolkina says, - “So we will insist on the meeting with participation of the top State representatives – in particular on the exit meeting – in order they can see with their own eyes whether the collection is present or not”.

    Kira Obukhova,