Review of events in the period from the 25th of October through the 18th of November 2010.
On the 25th of October 2010 a press-conference addressing results of the audit conducted at the Pavlovsk experiment station of VIR was held at the press-center of the Accounts Chamber of Russia. Members of the commissions stated the presence of the unique fruit, berry and fodder crop collections at the disputed plots №2 and №18 and concluded that no less than 25 ha are needed for preservation of the field genebank. Auditors pointed out to gaps in the Russian legislation, what as a matter of fact, resulted in intricate situation with the Pavlovsk experiment station. First of all, it`s connected with the absence of the term «genetic collection» in the Russian legislation, as well as regulations determining its status, issues of collecting, preservation, study and rational use of plant genetic resources.
These conclusions haven`t been new for VIR for a long time and as a proof of this can be the fact, that as far back as 2006 VIR by its own initiative developed a draft of the National program on plant genetic resources for effective coordination between research institutions and state authorities as well as joint elaboration and realization of the national strategy and politics in the sphere of preservation and rational use of biological and economically valuable potential of cultivated plants and their wild relatives to provide food security of the country, region and the whole world. All activities on preservation of plant genetic resources for the sake of present and future generations should be covered 100% by the budget.
Unfortunately, for the last five years ministries concerned have done anything on neither National program nor regulations on plant genetic resources. At the present time the Institute while working with collections of plant genetic resources acts in accordance with the regulation on genetic collections of cultivated plants and their wild relatives approved by the Scientific Council on the 2nd of April 2002. In 2010 VIR developed a new regulation on VIR collections as well as regulation on Russian plant genetic resources collections. They were approved by the Governing body of the Russian Academy of Agriculture Science on the 6th of October 2010. However these documents remain interdepartmental.
Taking into account high scientific potential of the Institute, its work experience with plant genetic diversity and presence of highly skilled specialists, the Interparliamentary Assembly of CIS countries concerned authorized the administration of the Institute to develop a concept and a model law on plant genetic resources. In December 2009 the regular session of the Interparliamentary Assembly adopted a model law on «Preservation and rational use of pant genetic resources» developed by VIR. Taking a model law as a basis, CIS countries have already started developing national legislation in this sphere.
However, the situation round the Pavlovsk experiment station made State officials pay attention to the gaps in the Russian legislation and on the 26th of October 2010 the deputy head of the State Duma on science and scientific technologies Igor Igoshin introduced a draft law determining the status of plant genetic resources collections. The draft law is now being considered. In particular, there should be elaborated an addendum to the article 100 of the Land Code on the most valuable lands.
NOTE: Land Code of Russia, article 100, paragraph 4, item 1
“…the most valuable lands are lands within which there are natural sites as well as cultural heritage sites of special scientific, historical and cultural value (typical or rare landscapes, cultural landscapes, communities of plant and animal organisms, rare geological formations, lands to be used for activities conducted by research institutions”.
The proposal of Igor Igoshin can be considered as a step forward on solving land problems, but it does not solve many associated difficulties connected with activities regarding preservation of plant genetic diversity.
Going back to the results of the audit, it`s necessary to mention that the Accounts Chamber came to the conclusion to share the plot №2 between the RZHS and Pavlovsk experiment station. Director of the RZHS supported such a conclusion saying both Russian and foreign architects have experience of building such collections in the habitat of the human beings with all environmental precautions, if territory needed for further extension of the collection let them do that. In this case, scientists should provide a justification on the territory needed for regeneration, preservation and development of the collection, until that RZHS doesn`t intend to do anything, but waiting for a decision of the Russian President regarding disputed plots. During the press-conference Alexander Braverman said RZHS would do its best to preserve plant genetic resources collections of VIR. Results were immediate – thanks to RZHS mobile patrols are being performed at the Pavlovsk experiment station. Administration of VIR and Pavlovsk station express their gratitude to RZHS for providing necessary funds.
However, proposal of Accounts Chamber to share the plot №2 is unacceptable for staff member of the Public Chamber Nadezhda Shkolkina and representatives of the Institute who intend to preserve all lands under collections (most appropriate from the whole area of the station for allocating fruit, berry, ornamental and perennial fodder crops adopted for soil-climatic conditions of the North-Western region of Russia), otherwise collection of plat genetic resources can turn into homestead garden.
So, on the 15th of November 2010 the commission of the Public Chamber on economic development and enterprise has forwarded a letter to the first deputy prime minister Viktor Zubkov asking him for a moratorium on housing construction near areas with plant collections. In addition, the administration of VIR prepared and forwarded to the Russian government a detailed justification of the area needed for collections. According to preliminary calculations based on international standards for preservation of existing collections and their extension involving new genepool of fruit, berry and perennial fodder crops adopted for use in the northern region in the period till 2035 at least 130 ha are needed with consequent assigning them the status - most valuable. However, without determining the status of plant genetic resources collections at the legislative level, this is not sufficient to guarantee their security.
On the 16th of November 2010 a working meeting was held at the Ministry of agricultural development. Some relevant departments, representatives of the Russian academy of agricultural science and VIR attended it. The issue was the establishment of the legal status for plant genetic resources in Russia. As a result of the meeting, VIR has to develop a concept of the law on plant genetic resources.
On the 18th of November 2010 a member of the Public Chamber Nadezhda Shkolkina visited the Pavlovsk experiment station, a field genebank and met with representatives of the fruit and berry crop department of VIR. During this meeting there were discussed issues concerning the draft law on plant genetic resources as well as perspectives of collection extension.
On the same day a film crew of the TV channel "Russia Today" (RT) visited the Pavlovsk experiment station. RT reporters met with the administration of the Pavlovsk experiment station, a member of the Public Chamber Nadezhda Shkolkina as well as staff members of the fruit and berry crop department of VIR. Later on they had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the field genebank and to shoot. A day earlier representatives of the Arabic film company “Al-Jazeera” had to visit the station, but the meeting was postponed to a later date because of the incident occurred with the film crew car a day before the scheduled visit.