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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Plant DNA bank opens in Brazil
Rainforest leaf, AP
Brazil is thought to have the greatest biodiversity on Earth
The race is on at Rio de Janeiro's Botanic Gardens to preserve the genetic codes of hundreds of endangered plant species, Brazilian media reports.

Environment Minister Marina Silva opened the country's first plant DNA bank to mark World Environment Week.

The minister also planted a new species, which was named Tibouchina marinae in her honour.

Brazil, the world's fifth largest country, is thought to have the greatest biodiversity on Earth.

It is home to a vast range of unique flora and fauna spread over six major zones - known as biomes.

These include the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal flood plains in the western state of Mato Grosso.

Facing extinction

But some 338 plants are facing extinction in Brazil, according to a report compiled by IUCN-The World Conservation Union.

Environmental pressures, such as deforestation, are blamed for this threat, which is most acute in the south-eastern Atlantic forests.

The DNA bank is one way of saving as many rare plants as possible from extinction.

The Botanic Gardens Research Institute also boasts two new laboratories, where scientists will work on the conservation of vital plant life and the development of plant-based drug treatments.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Silva acknowledged that government budget cuts had left her with meagre funds for conservation programmes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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