The profusion of plants, animals and micro-organisms is disappearing at an alarming rate, threatening future food supplies and the making of new drugs. Almost 75% of the world's crop plant varieties have become extinct, and around 50,000 disappear every year.
Worse may be to come, as the rich countries exploit what is essentially a Southern resource; over 90% of plant species are located in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This briefing looks at the challenge for conservation ahead.
The 1992 Biodiversity Convention raises the possibility of protecting much of the world's biodiversity resources, but agreement has not been reached on including tropical forests or controlling the release of genetically modified organisms.