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World's First Seed Bank Could Be Destroyed

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on August 10, 2010 - 3:18am

"Twelve Russian scientists famously chose to starve to death rather than eat the unique collection of seeds and plants they were protecting for humanity during the 900-day siege of Leningrad in the second world war. But the world's first global seed bank now faces destruction once more, to make way for a private housing estate."  - the Guardian, UK

It's defies logic, but the fate of the world's first seed bank in Russia, the Pavlovsk Experimental Station, hangs in the balance for something as frivilous and temporary as a housing development. A Russian court will decide this week if, as argued, that the seed bank has a right and the protection to exist considering that it was never apparently registered with the Russian government. If not, it may be destroyed.

According to the Guardian:

"At stake, say Russian and British campaigners for the station, is not just scientific history but one of the world's largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, apples and cherries. Pavlovsk contains more than 5,000 varieties of seeds and berries from dozens of countries, including more than 100 varieties each of gooseberries and raspberries."

The article goes on to say...

"More than 90% of the plants are found in no other research collection or seed bank. Its seeds and berries are thought to possess traits that could be crucial to maintaining productive fruit harvests in many parts of the world as climate change and a rising tide of disease, pests and drought weaken the varieties farmers now grow." (emphasis ours)

For a unique perspective on this situation, please take a moment to read Wes Jackson's speech given at the 50th Anniversary of Khrushchev visit to the Garst family farm in Iowa to discuss farming and food with farmer and seed entrepeneur, Roswell Garst. Wes eloquently takes us back in time to reaize that the many choices that we have made, from dependence upon nitrogen fertilizers to the abuse of our soil, the consequences of such could not have been realized when the lightbulb went off. The consequences of such are breathing down our necks now.

In his speech at this historic event attended by Nikita Khrushchev's son, Sergei, Wes asks for a cooperative effort between the Americans and the Russians in agricultural development. He honors in his speech the seed bank that survived as the scientists protecting it starved.

It is time now, indeed, to harken that spirit again. To do anything else is a global tragedy of unheard proportions - and defiles the memory of twelve heros.

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