Rainforests indeed hold a wealth of medicinally useful plants. Drug companies work together with conservationists and natives to identify and catalog the useful plants. But the drug companies don’t harvest the plants themselves for drugs; they attempt to synthesize the useful compounds.
Actually the medicine industry is one of the driving forces pushing to save the rainforest. “Bioprospectors”, those who scan the threatened rainforests for plants that could potentially create cures for disease, are made up of researchers, conservationists, and anthropologists. Rainforests provide the basis for a quarter of today’s medicine, including possible cures for leukimia, cancer, and AIDS. With an estimated 137 plant species lost every day to deforestation, over 100 pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to preserve and research what they can before it is destroyed for the benefit of cattle grazing and power plant construction.
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