Friday, January 09, 2004

Wrong prescription

I haven't heard too much about Brazilian rainforests lately. There were all sorts of scare stories about how cultivating the rainforests would impair our atmosphere, how the soil was useless for cultivation, and how we'd be losing species left and right. And some claimed that the exotic species yet to be discovered within the rainforests had the potential to yield wonder drugs. (and some lost milllions pursuing that possibility).

But suppose you use a plant for drugs and see what happens:
Worldwide demand for herbal remedies is threatening natural habitats and endangering up to a fifth of wild medicinal plant species which are being harvested to extinction, a leading science magazine said.
IMO this is amusing because I find that those with environmental sympathies have a very high overlap with those who are likely to use herbal concoctions for medicine.

If you want to save a species, make sure it has commercial value. Nobody is worried about cattle, hogs, chickens, rice, corn or wheat going extinct. These exotic herbs can join the list once we learn to cultivate them.

It's true that some species resist cultivation, such as morels and truffles. But I'll trust free enterprise with endangered species cultivation long before I would trust some smelly ecobabbler with it.

No comments: