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[Opinion] Korea’s Bio Resources

Posted July. 11, 2006 03:25,   


G7 is a group of industrialized nations that effectively rule the world’s wealth and trade. In 1997, Russia joined, making it G8. In the global economy, the power of these countries is as influential as ever. Meanwhile, M7 (Megadiversity 7) is a group of countries that have abundant biodiversity: Brazil, Mexico, Madagascar, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia, and Indonesia. Interestingly enough, G7 represents 54 percent of wealth in the world, while M7 account for the same proportion of bio resources on the globe.

It was G7, not M7, which was first aware that biospecies could become resources in the future. Developed nations went beyond studying species on their land and rushed further into rainforests of high biodiversity to establish laboratories and invest in relevant areas. It was like hitting a jackpot if they developed a cancer treatment from an unknown plant. In fact, aspirin and a heart disease pill are extracted from the willow and digitalis, respectively. Vincristine and Vinblastine are extracted from the Rosy periwinkle, a rainforest plant, which has increased the cure rate of leukemia.

Bio resources also present hope for food crisis in the future. Rice, wheat, and corn are all single breeds, so a breakout of a new disease will cause huge damage. In the 1960s, when wheat production across the world was in danger because of stripe rust, researchers took advantage of genetic material from the Turkish wild wheat to combat the disease. No wonder USDA Agricultural Research Service in Idaho keeps 43,000 species of wild grain samples in its National Small Grain Collection.

Preservation of bio resources and the decoding of genetics have become an essential part of national competitiveness. Yet, Korea lags in this area. The government only recently announced that it would establish a database collecting national bio resource information. If Korea fails to protect its own bio resources, it will have no way to counter when another country registers Korean cow’s genetic data and argues that the cow is theirs.

Chung Seong-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com