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Global plan seeks to preserve diversity of species

Moving beyond a "Save the Panda" approach, an international team today plans to announce a comprehensive strategy to protect the world's diversity of plant and animal species and to tap this diversity for human benefit.

The fruit of a three-year effort involving 500 advisers throughout the world, the "Global Biodiversity Strategy" addresses growing concern that the extinction of species will deprive future generations of new medicines and new strains of food crops.

With as many as 50 plant species disappearing each day, scientists calculate that the planet's biodiversity could be reduced by 10 percent by 2015.

"We have got to realize that next to the human mind, the earth's biological wealth is the greatest thing about this planet," said James Gustave Speth, president of World Resources Institute, a Washington organization that was one of the sponsors of the 244-page report.

Sponsors hope the report's 85 recommendations will guide world environmental policy makers who are to meet next June in Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, a once-a-decade gathering.

The report recommends establishing an early warning network to identify and protect ecosystems throughout the world that suddenly become threatened. Governments and multilateral development agencies are asked to devote at least $1-billion a year.

On the national level, countries are being encouraged to assert control over their genetic resources and to exact royalties for their commercial uses.

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