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New yews offer hope in cancer fight
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-12 06:31

Researchers have bred a new variety of yew tree, famous for its cancer fighting properties, in an effort to stave off the extinction of the endangered plant.

The new breed, developed by a team from Beijing Taxus Co Ltd, contains more taxol, regarded as the most effective natural remedy in fighting cancer, than the wild yew tree.

The wild yew, with its scarlet cup-shaped seeds and flat needles that are dark green above and yellowish below, can only be found in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

"From China's west to east, southern island to northern grassland, we planted the newly-cultivated tree and found it grows well," Xie Zhiyuan, CEO of the company, told China Daily.

He said the predecessor to the new variety, named Zike No 1, was imported from the United States in 1995.

With support from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Xie's team conducted experiments nationwide planting the imported natural hybrid variety, named media yew, in different kinds of soil.

"By using scientific methods, we produced this excellent variety," said Xie.

"Benefits of the achievement are manifold," said Xie during a three-day conference held by the US-based Native Yew Conservation Council in Beijing.

He said the plant, which is rare the world over, can now be protected by the potential wide planting of the new variety.

The yew currently stands endangered due to the massive felling of the tree for the extraction of taxol. But the new breed will produce more taxol three years after planting that the wild variety could after 30 years, the research team found.

Xie said the planting of the new yew could help farmers in poor mountainous regions shake off poverty. "It's also of decorative value," said Xie, who has suggested Beijing use the ever-green plant to spruce up the capital.

(China Daily 05/12/2005 page2)

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