Biodiversity is essential for plant and animal breeding, and extremely valuable for pharmacology. New tools for the assessment of biodiversity are being developed under the Community's specific RTD programme in the field of Biotechnology (BIOTECH). Under the BIOTECH I programme (1990-1994), four projects were launched to develop molecular genetic screening tools and to assess biodiversity in animals or plants. One of these projects (Development and adaptation of rapid molecular screening techniques for assessing genetic diversity in forest trees), focusing on biodiversity in forest trees, has led to improved methods for DNA extraction, identification of DNA polymorphisms and software for analysing biodiversity. As a result of the project, two new products - the DNeasy and RNeasy kits - for rapid, small-scale isolation of DNA or RNA from plant tissue (fresh, frozen or dried) and fungi, have been developed and marketed by Qiagen, the industrial partner in the project.