Until recently, the prevailing attitude in developed nations regarded the world's genetic resources, which are mainly concentrated in the developing world, as a common resource of humankind, to be exploited freely irrespective of national origin. With the devastation being wreaked in the tropical rainforests and the resurgence in interest in recent years in the discovery of novel drugs from natural sources, particularly plants and marine organisms, the international scientific community has realized that the conservation of these global genetic resources and the indigenous knowledge associated with their use are of primary importance if their potential is to be fully explored. With this realization has come a recognition that these goals must be achieved through collaboration with, and fair and equitable compensation of, the scientists and communities of the genetically rich source countries. The signing of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity by nearly all of the World's nations has emphasized the need for the implementation of such policies. In this review, the articles of the Convention of relevance to the activities and practices of the natural products scientific community are briefly discussed. This discussion is followed by a summary of policies for international collaboration and compensation being implemented by several developed country organizations, and the perspectives on the current developments given by representatives of some of the source countries located in the regions of greatest biodiversity.
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