Biodiversity Breakdown May Threaten Chinese Medicine

The Chinese have been using sea horses as ingredients in traditional medicines for a thousand years, but recently they have started to worry about the survival of this species.

At the Third International Seminar on Science and Technology in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Utilization being held in Beijing, Dr. Liu Mingsheng said that China used 250 tons of dried seahorses every year in a score of remedies, importing 90 percent of the creatures from Vietnam, the Philippines and India.

However, in its natural state the sea horse is on the verge of extinction, according to Liu, a doctor with a Chinese medicine company from southern Hainan Province.

"The business of Chinese medicine will be severely affected if medicinal creatures like sea horses die out one day," he said.

Some 150 scientists and business people from China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Cuba, Denmark, the Republic of Korea and Brazil are attending the three-day seminar to discuss the conservation of animals and plants used in medicines.

Christine Leon of the British Royal Botanical Garden said that there were more than 2,000 clinics dispensing Chinese medicine and many university programs in Britain, illustrating the popularity of traditional treatments.

However, the growing demand for such medicines made conserving wild plants more difficult. She suggested using herbal medicine containing stable chemical ingredients and expanding the cultivation of medicinal herbs.

Professor Chen Changdu of Peking University said that China had made efforts to deal with the decline of wild medicinal plants. Some 600 market gardens growing such crops with a total area of six million mu (148,263 acres) had been set up across the country.

Fortunately, the latest gene technology including molecular cloning offers a solution to the problem of shrinking resources for Chinese medicines, said Xiao Peigen, a member of the Academy of Engineering of China.

An artificial breeding program for sea horses has been developed in Hainan, and is expected to produce 50 tons within three years, Xiao said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 23, 2002)

In This Series

Scientists Urge Hi-Tech Biodiversity Conservation

Production of Traditional Chinese Medicine to Be Standardized

Opportunities Open in China's Bio-medicine Industry: Expert

Gene Technology Launched to Decode Traditional Chinese Medicine

China Inks Deal With Biodiverse Alliance

State Vows to Protect Biodiversity

Genechip for Fast Medicine Track Developed in HK

Hi-Tech Will Boost Chinese Medicine Industry

First Provincial Biodiversity Program Launched



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