ITHACA, NEW YORK — On 19 April the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), meeting in The Hague, adopted a landmark set of international guidelines intended to protect developing countries from having their native plants and traditional remedies exploited solely for the benefit of drug, biotechnology and seed companies, most of which are in the developed world.

Compliance with the guidelines is voluntary, but they provide the first widely accepted criteria for national licensing of access to genetic resources and are expected to influence legislation in many countries. The guidelines also propose concrete ways for profits from products derived from biological sources to be shared "fairly and equitably," both with the source countries and with indigenous groups whose traditional uses typically inspire bioprospecting researchers.

Joshua P. Rosenthal, a key player in biodiversity research, described the new guidelines as "sensible and constructive."

"Ultimately, these kinds of guidelines will help make...

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