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Last year, US researchers studying indigenous plant varieties were forced to stop their work in Southern Mexico, despite various efforts to involve the indigenous community in understanding the scientific and conservation goals of their research.

In a letter to Nature, Joshua Rosenthal of the National Institutes of Health defends the US programme. He says that it aimed to identify potential drugs to improve the public health of both developing and developed countries, while promoting economic development and conservation of local diversity.

Developing nations, he argues, stand to benefit from improvements in health care and from enhanced capability to use and conserve their disappearing biological resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Reference: Nature 416, 15 (2002)

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