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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 05:40 GMT
Brazil's bid to discover new medicines

The Brazilian government has launched a massive project to catalogue thousands of plant species in the hope of discovering new herbal medicines.

The environmental agency IBAMA said it was creating the country's first ever database of medicinal plants.

The agency's director, Hamilton Casara, said the government wanted to discover herbal remedies for diseases such as Aids and cancer before multi-national pharmaceutical companies already operating in Brazil.

Mr Casara said the unregulated harvesting of species and the destruction of natural habitats, threatened the discovery of new medicines. Brazil is thought to have some of the world's most diverse eco-systems in areas like the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands and the Mata Atlantica coastal forests.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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