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The United States Has Global Biodiversity Programs

The July 17 opinion-page article, "US Should Take a Stand on Biodiversity," by representatives from Conservation International painted a very misleading picture of United States global biodiversity programs.

In a report to Congress last month, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) detailed the nearly $300 million the US has committed over the past two years to help conserve tropical forests and biological diversity. Hardly the "token amounts" quipped by the Conservation International spokesmen.

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USAID has 125 biodiversity programs in more than 60 countries. These programs include conserving tropical forests in Central America, protecting African elephants, protecting coastal ecosystems, and a $10 million program with the World Wildlife Fund to swap debt for nature in the Philippines - the largest such swap to date in Asia. Meanwhile, US spending on tropical forest conservation is at record levels.

The US justifiably refused to sign the "Biodiversity Convention" at the Earth Summit in Rio. The fine print of the treaty would mean that American scientists and firms would not be able to have their hard-earned patents protected from foreign corporations. In protecting biodiversity, private sector partners should not be treated as the enemy. They need a fair playing field on which to participate.

The battle to save the world's precious environment needs all of our support, but pronouncements such as those made in the July 17 article can sometimes be just as dangerous to the cause as bulldozers. Richard E. Bissell, Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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