The direct harvesting and export of natural products, particularly timber and fish, the expansion of agriculture into primary forests, wetlands and grasslands, and the replacement of traditional native crops with high-yielding exotic species have had severe impacts on biodiversity. In addition, urbanization, industrialization, pollution, mining, tourism, introduced species, hunting, illegal trade in endangered species and the lack of proper management practices have taken their toll.
Biodiversity is big business, and transnational corporations are taking out patents and claiming breeders' rights on plants. The North is therefore exploiting what is essentially a resource of the South, as most of the plant species are native to Africa, Asia and Latin America. Further, the spread of patented, genetically uniform varieties could work against the conservation and sustainable use of plant resources. It means that Third World farmers have to pay the corporations high prices for "improved" varieties. There is a basic injustice. There is also concern that the Uruguay Round trade accord could threaten plant genetic resource conservation and farmers' rights.
The magnificent richness and manifest wonder of biological diversity in creation has been abusively flattened and crudely crammed into the impoverished concepts of "market commodities" and "ecosystem services."
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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