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Cynthia cardui on lavender, Dodecanese, Greece, by Constantine Alexander (CC2.0)

Market Sectors Dependent on Genetic Sources 

Global market sectors heavily or entirely dependent on genetic resources and the value of these markets include the following:

  • the pharmaceutical industry, which derives 25-50% of its value from genetic resources, was reported by IMS Health to have a 2014 value of $1.1 trillion;
  • the biotechnology industry, the products of which are derived from natural resources such as enzymes and microorganisms, was valued in 2013 by Ernst & Young at $791.8 billion;
  • the agricultural seed industry, which is derived 100% from genetic resources, was valued by SeedQuest in 2011 at $37 billion;
  • the food/beverage industry valued at nearly $15 trillion in 2014 by Frost & Sullivan;
  • the herbal remedies market valued at $83 billion in 2008 by Nutraceuticals World;
  • the personal care products industry valued at $421.2 billion in 2012 by Smithers; and
  • the botanical industry which is entirely dependent on genetic resources.

Here are a few examples of the socio-economic uses to which our natural resources have been put. These examples demonstrate the efficacy of natural resource conservation as one of the means by which to achieve sustainable employment creation and at the same time ensure the long term availability of the industrial sector’s future natural resource requirements.

Among the plant-derived anti-cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Vinblastine is based on a chemical discovered in the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) found in woodlands, forests and grasslands. Vinblastine is used in chemotherapy against cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease, Kaposi’s sarcoma, malignant lymphomas, mycosis fungoides, neuroblastoma, Wilm’s tumour and leukemia. Since the 1950s, it has increased the survival rate of childhood leukemias by 80%.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers reported in 2013 that synthetic materials based on the organic composition of byssus threads produced by marine bi-valve molluscs such as the Horse Mussel (Modiolus modiolus), may be used as (i) artificial tendons to repair or replace damaged human tendons and (ii) surgical sutures, especially during delicate operations of the stomach and heart which are organs that funnel irregular flows of liquid and require strong sutures.

A natural compound from the venom of Indo-Pacific cone snails (Conus magnus) is the basis for the synthetic drug ziconotide which is a non-addictive drug for the treatment of severe chronic pain. Ziconotide is 1,000 times more potent than the addictive drug morphine. Clinical trials are testing its efficacy in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

The Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park generates AU$5.8 billion in revenue and supports 66,000 jobs as well as a wide range of economic activities along the Queensland coast. According to the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the reef protection costs are less than 1% of the annual park revenue.

According to a 7 January 2009 World Wide Fund for Nature report entitled “Money Talks: Economic Aspects Of Marine Turtle Use And Conservation” by Sebastian Troeng and Carlos Drews, the economic value of living marine turtles is worth almost three times more than the economic value of dead turtles converted into commercial goods such as meat, leather and shell products. This study compared the revenue generated from marine turtle tourism with revenue generated from marine turtle products at 18 sites in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. The results from data collection revealed that one half of the sites that opted for marine turtle ecotourism averaged US$1.65 million in annual revenue while the nine sites that killed turtles for the sale of turtle products averaged US$582,000 in annual revenue.

The tourism value of protected mangroves in the Ras Mohammed Marine Park in Egypt is US$756,625 per hectare per year while the average park mangrove maintenance cost is US$150,000 per hectare per year, thereby providing significant funding sources for employment creation, infrastructure development, tourism facility operations, scientific monitoring, park regulations enforcement and environmental remediation expenses necessitated by natural or artificial disasters.

One half of the 100 most prescribed drugs in the U.S. originate from wild species and, according to Professor Stephen Hopper, biologist and 2006-2012 CEO/Chief Scientist of the UK Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, three quarters of the world’s population depends directly on plants for their primary health care; however, 54% of assessed plant species are threatened with extinction, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature report.