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Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: References

Medicinal Drugs



According to Cox, P.A. and Balick, M.J., ("The Ethnobotanical Approach to Drug Discovery," Scientific American, June 1994) fewer than 5% of tropical forest plants and 0.1% of animals have been screened for their chemical properties and medicinal values. However, Cox and Balick note that recently more pharmaceutical firms have entered the rainforest plant arena and today the National Cancer Institute screens rainforest species for anti-cancer and anti-HIV compounds.

The drug discovery process is also discussed in Cox, P.A. and Balick, M.J., ("The Ethnobotanical Approach to Drug Discovery," Scientific American, June 1994) and Cragg, G.M., Simon, J.E., Jato, J.G ("Drug Discovery and Development at the National Cancer Institute: potential for New Pharmaceutical Crops," Progress in New Crops. J. Janick (ed), ASHS Press, Arlington, VA. 1996).

Indigenous use of plants can provide an important clue in finding compounds with medicinal promise as presented by Schultes, R.E. and Raffauf, R.F., The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia. Portland: Dioscorides Press, 1990; Cox, P.A. and Balick, M.J., "The Ethnobotanical Approach to Drug Discovery," Scientific American, June 1994; and Cox, P.A. and Elmqvist, T., "Ecocolonialism and Indigenous-Controlled Rainforest Preserves in Samoa," Ambio Vol. 26 No. 2, March 1997. In this regard, N. Myers (The Primary Source:Tropical Forests and Our Future, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1984) and W. Davis (One River, New York: Touchstone, 1996) discuss the tremendous library of botanical knowledge possessed by rainforest peoples. Myers notes than forest dwellers in Southeast Asia use 6,500 species, while northwest Amazonians use at least 1,300 plants for medicinal purposes.

The Anti-HIV compound Michellamine B derived from a liana in Cameroon is described in Cragg, G.M., Simon, J.E., Jato, J.G ("Drug Discovery and Development at the National Cancer Institute: potential for New Pharmaceutical Crops," Progress in New Crops. J. Janick (ed), ASHS Press, Arlington, VA. 1996).

Drugs derived from the rosy periwinkle generated over a billion dollars in profit for Eli Lilly & Co, yet Madagascar - the country from which the drugs originated - saw nothing in terms of revenue. This is mentioned in Robinson, K., "The Blessings of Biodiversity," Chronicle Foreign Services, 1/19/2000.

Biopiracy is discussed in LaFranchi, H., "Amazon Indians Ask 'Biopirates' to Pay for Rain-Forest Riches," Christian Science Monitor, 11/20/1997.

Some alternatives to biopiracy are mentioned in LaFranchi, H., "For US Company, Tribe Partnership Is Bottom Line," Christian Science Monitor, 11/20/1997 (Bixa orellana box) and Cox, P.A. and Balick, M.J., "The Ethnobotanical Approach to Drug Discovery," Scientific American, June 1994 (Prostialin from Somoa).

Stenson, A.J. and Gray, T.S. debate the merits of granting intellectual property rights to indigenous communities for their knowledge of genetic plant resources in "An Autonomy-Based Justification for Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Communities," Environmental Ethics, Vol 21, Summer 1999.

The INBio/Merck agreement in Costa Rica is reviewed by Tangley, L., "Cataloging Costa Rica's Diversity," BioScience, 40 (6): 633-636, 1990), E.O. Wilson (The Diversity of Life, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1992) and the World Resources Institute 1992.

Raven, P.H, estimates that 20-25% of the world's plant species will be extinct by the year 2015 should forest cover continue to be diminished by 1-2% every year in "Our Diminishing Tropical Forests," In BioDiversity, Wilson, E.O. and Peter, F.M., eds., National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 1988.

 

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Solutions Introduction
Sustainable Forest Products
Large-scale Forest Products
Medicinal Drugs
Logging
Logging (con't)
Oil
Conservation Priorities
Reserve Size & Valuation
Organization
Intergovernmental Institutions
Communication, Education
Indigenous people
- - - -
References (1)
References (3)
References (5)

Sustainable Dev - Agriculture
Eco-tourism
Foods & Genetic Diversity
Medicinal Drugs & Pesticides
Logging (con't)
Cattle
Increasing Productivity
Types of Reserves
Funding
Developing nations
NGOs
International Organizations
Conclusion
- - - -
References (2)
References (4)
References (6)

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