How Declining Biodiversity Limits Your Medicine Cabinet

Image of Cara Davidson, Guest Blogger

Cara Davidson, Guest Blogger

This blog is written by guest blogger Cara Davidson.

The pharmaceutical industry is often thought of as highly scientific and thus, unintentionally distanced from nature in our minds. While the complexity of modern drugs cannot be denied, neither can the fact that some of the most widely prescribed drugs come from biological compounds found in our environment.

Unfortunately, as we continue to lose biodiversity via urban development, pollution and extinction, we forfeit the opportunity to use parts the natural world for our benefit.

You’re likely already familiar with medications sourced from biology without even knowing it! Drugs like aspirin and penicillin come from Mother Earth. Here are some examples you may not have heard of:Image of the base of a tree

  1. African slime molds that treat tumours resistant to taxol (a popular (also plant-derived) chemotherapy drug).
  2. Cyclosporine from American and Norwegian soils, used as an immunosuppressant to prevent organ transplant rejection.

Surprisingly, some researchers estimate that we’ve examined under 1% of Earth’s known species for their medical value, yet we rely on so many. Imagine our medical potential if we took care of the environment, preserved our ecosystems and studied the magnitude of Earth’s diversity with a purpose: health.

Biodiversity plays many roles in the well being of humans – medications are just one example. Nature products are essential to many laboratory research and diagnostic operations, energy generation and toxic waste remediation, among others. Collectively, humans must become more conscious of how beneficial biodiversity truly is.

The most devastating part is that no one knows what we’re missing out on and we may never have the chance to discover it. Unless, of course, we take serious steps to preserve our planet’s diversity. If we don’t, it could ultimately cost us our lives.

Acknowledgments: OurFuturePlanetRebuilding the Unity of Health and the Environment: A New Vision of Environmental Health for the 21st Century, Government of Canada

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