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Roots of a cure

Find out about the use of plants as medicine - how do bioprospectors find 'green gold'?

Plants were the main source of medicine for centuries; it was only with advances in chemistry that the physic garden shed its soil. Plants continued to point the way towards remedies but in the developed world the path always led straight to the lab. However, the last decade has brought renewed interest in using plants in medicine. Bioprospectors go into the wild searching for green gold in the form of healing plants. Fortunately, advances in plant science and medicine enable scientists, like the ones at Kew Gardens, to study the efficacy of plants used traditionally to treat different diseases. But this approach comes with its own economic and ethical dilemmas. Much of the knowledge that goes into bioprospecting comes from indigenous populations. Some of them have successfully offered their plant knowledge in exchange for resources to develop their communities and conserve biodiversity. Since bioprospecting is such a hit-and-miss game, though, many drug companies are reluctant to engage in the search – making plant medicine a fertile but fragile domain.

Graham Dutfield is Senior Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. He has authored three books on intellectual property, biodiversity and the life science industries, and co-authored or edited three others. He has served as consultant or commissioned report author for several governments, international organisations, United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Monique Simmonds is head of the Sustainable Uses of Plants Group at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She co-ordinates Kew’s research into the medicinal uses of plants, and has extensive experience of work with different government organisations in developing countries. She regularly talks to the public about Kew’s scientific research programmes.

This event is in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Professor Monique Simmonds | talks | www
Graham Dutfield | talks


Date and Time:

20 October 2005 at 7:00 pm


2 hours



The Royal Institution of Great Britain
21 Albemarle Street
020 7409 2992

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£8, £5 for Ri Members and concessions

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www.rigb.org or phone 020 7409 2992

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