Biodiversity Crucial to Future Medicines

The loss of biodiversity and dying out of species may lead to the loss of future disease cures, according to a new book by a leading United Nations health official.

Earth’s organisms offer a variety of naturally made chemical compounds with which scientists could develop new medicines, but are under threat of extinction, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.

We must do something about what is happening to biodiversity,” Steiner told reporters. “We must help society understand how much we already depend on diversity of life to run our economies, our lives, but more importantly, what are we losing in terms of future potential.”

Steiner was announcing the conclusions of a new medical book, “Sustaining Life,” on the sidelines of a UNEP-organized conference in Singapore. The book is the work of more than 100 experts, its key authors based at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, and it underscores what may be lost to human health when species go extinct, Steiner said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080423/ap_on_sc/un_biodiversity_medicine

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