Ethnobiologist who became an authority on the medical use of tropical plants but was accused of trying to exploit Amazon tribesAs a long-standing supporter of the rights of indigenous peoples, Conrad Gorinsky, who has died aged 83, was the inspiration behind the creation of the campaigning human rights organisation Survival International and, unwittingly, one of the catalysts for the introduction of the UN’s Convention on Biodiversity, which attempted to protect the interests of those with traditional knowledge of the properties of plants.

Born of part-Amerindian ancestry, on the northern edge of the Amazonian rainforest in Guyana, South America, Gorinsky used the medical training he received in Britain to isolate the active constituent both of the nut of the greenheart tree, which he called rupununine, and of the barbasco bush, which he christened cuaniol. Hoping that both chemicals would be of use in developing new medicines, he filed for patents and began to make contact with drug companies.

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